Well, all right. All right
Actually, I wish I could say that about "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past", the newest Matthew McConnaughey film, yet another step on his self-administered road to obscurity. But I can't because this film gives the term "Chick Flick" a bad name.
Connor Mead (McConnaughey) is a world-famous photographer and world-famous bachelor. He arrives at his studio and quickly flirts with and photographs a number of beautiful women, all of whom flirt back because his reputation apparently precedes him. He quickly snaps a shot of a new singer for the cover of "Vanity Fair" and then proceeds to seduce her in his office while breaking up with three other girls via a conference web cam set up by his faithful assistant Melanie (Noureen DeWulf). He quickly rushes off to his little brother's wedding at his Uncle Wayne's estate. Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), a famous womanizer, has died, but he raised the two boys so Connor and Paul (Breckin Meyer) own the estate. When he arrives, Connor quickly runs into Jenny Perroti (Jennifer Garner), his old girlfriend, who warns him not to do anything to ruin the wedding of her sister, Sandra (Lacey Chabret, TV's "Party of Five"). But Connor is an affirmed bachelor and can't understand why his little brother wants to tie the knot. Drinking madly, Connor is soon visited by the spirit of Uncle Wayne who tells him he will be visited by the ghosts of three former girlfriends who will hopefully help guide him through a journey of self-discovery. Connor runs away and finds himself back in bed with Allison (Emma Stone), the first girl he ever slept with, in his bed, complete with "Material Girl" outfit. She quickly takes Connor back to his early days and the film works forward from there.
Actually, the film works forward from there, plodding along at a snail's pace.
There is a lot wrong with "Ghosts" and little right, which is a bit of a shock because the film is helmed by Mark Waters, the man who brought us the surprising "Mean Girls". "Ghosts" never achieves the right tone or consistency, giving us more drama than comedy, less madcap than plodding and stilted direction.
Matthew McConnaughey continues to skips his way through a series of forgettable films, rom-com's that are either badly directed, badly written or both. And McConnaughey is not a very good actor in the best of his films, so when he doesn't have a good director, good screenplay or good co-stars, the result is bad. In "Ghosts", he plays an even more obnoxious version of his stock character, the horn dog. Connor Mead is the horn dog to end all horn dogs (here's hoping McConnaughey tries something different in his next film) and is so bad that he detests the very idea of marriage. As soon as he arrives at the wedding of his younger brother, he begins to bad mouth the institution and everything it stands for. This is mildly amusing, but his diatribe continues. And continues. And continues.
Then, he begins to hit on everyone. All but one of the bridesmaids have slept with Connor and he locks his sights on Jenny. But she has been burned by him before and will have nothing to do with him. I don't blame her because he acts like a Class A jerk from the moment he steps foot in his Uncle Wayne's estate.
It is mildly interesting to watch McConnaughey play a womanizing bachelor for a few minutes; he is quite good at it, but the idea wears thin. Connor has no redeeming qualities. None. Zero. Zilch. Which is probably why his Uncle Wayne pays him a visit. But this signals the point when the film becomes an odd hybrid, and not in a good way.
"Ghosts" just isn't that funny. As soon as the whole 'visited by three ghosts' idea gets worked into the story, it becomes much more serious than I would have ever anticipated. It is almost like a morality play. "I don't want this to happen to you, kid" is Uncle Wayne's reason for visiting his nephew. So from that point forward, McConnaughey struggles through every scene trying to look earnest and repentant.
Jennifer Garner is a likable screen personality but in "Ghosts", she is never funny and only romantic for a few moments. She seems to have been given the instruction that she is appearing in a romantic drama. She confronts Connor on a few occasions, threatening him to avoid doing anything that might ruin her sister's wedding. In flashbacks, we see a few moments in their relationship and these are played remarkably straight and lifeless.
Breckin Meyer and Lacey Chabret play the newlyweds and they seem to have been given the same instructions because they never do anything but act incredibly serious. Lacey Chabret goes a step further to make her bride seem shrill and irritating. She must take her inspiration from a recently viewed DVD of "Bride Wars".
Emma Stone appears as though she might be able to provide us with some laughs. She plays Allison, the first girl Connor ever had sex with. Initially, she seems madcap and high strung and unusual. Then, we witness the first time they have sex, and it is amusing only because it has happened to so many of us in the same way, but after this, she merely stands by the sidelines watching as Connor tries to deal with all of the images flooding his mind.
The one bright spot for a few laughs falls on Michael Douglas. Douglas appears to be channeling Robert Evans, the once prolific producer who ran Paramount Studios in the early 70s, when they were producing films like "The Godfather" and "Marathon Man". Evans has a reputation as a ladies man and Douglas channels the man's persona, style and mannerisms and borrows many of his trademark physical attributes. Uncle Wayne takes his two nephews in when their parents are killed (I know, I know, the stuff from which every great comedy is wrought). When Connor becomes a teenager, Wayne decides his nephew needs some help and begins to coach him, teaching him his unique, effective ways of scoring woman. Douglas has fun with the role and occasionally says something mildly outrageous eliciting a laugh from the audience. But it isn't enough to save the film.
When you see the trailer for a film like "Ghosts", you expect it to be certain things, funny, romantic, madcap. Many people would probably expect it to be a 'chick flick'. I can't stand labels like this because it sort of presupposes men aren't interested in romantic films, comedy or drama or films with strong female leads. For those of you who are out there laughing right now, really? You aren't ever interested in a romantic comedy? That's too bad. May you be doomed to a lifetime of Vin Diesel action films. Even if you never see a romantic comedy, too often the label 'chick flick' is applied to terrible films like "Bride Wars" or any other recent film starring Kate Hudson. But when even a film like "Ghosts" doesn't fulfill any of these needs, to laugh, to cry, to hear your heart beat, it gives this derogatory term a bad name.
I got the impression "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" would be much more madcap and it is, in fact, much more dour. Because you keep waiting for laughs, keep waiting for something funny to happen, "Ghosts" becomes a long, tedious film.