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'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By

Matthew McConaughey Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Matthew McConaughey in 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.'

New Line Cinema
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a spirited twist on the Dickens story A Christmas Carol that had me laughing more than any other comedy released (thus far) in 2009. It's smart, charming, sticky sweet in places, and it's got a bit more of a bite to it than most romantic comedies. Plus, it has Matthew McConaughey playing a total cad, a role which the rom com veteran was able to slip into quite nicely.

Definitely one just for the ladies, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past hits theaters the same day as Hugh Jackman's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It's a good, strategic move to place Ghosts opposite a film that skews toward the men as women won't feel bad about leaving their males to fend for themselves while they take in this above average chick flick.

The Story

Connor Mead is a professional photographer who likes his women beautiful, easy, and not too clingy. Connor's got no desire whatsoever to settle down having learned at a young age from his now deceased playboy uncle, Wayne (Michael Douglas), that there's no need to settle for one fish when there's so many in the sea to choose from. Connor's a one night stand kind of guy who has no intention of changing.

Emma Stone and Matthew McConaughey in 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.'
© New Line Cinema
But as in A Christmas Carol, someone needs to learn a hard lesson and in this rendition of the classic Dickens story it's Connor's turn to take a romp through his past, get a peak at the present without anyone knowing he's there, and see what the future holds in store for him if he doesn't change his ways. All this happens after he gives his baby brother one of the worst rehearsal dinner toasts ever uttered by a human being. Uncle Wayne appears, tells him to pay attention to three spectral visitors, and wise up before it's too late. Uncle Wayne was a party animal to the end, which Connor appreciates and emulates, but he died a lonely man because he never found love. Wayne doesn't want that to happen to his nephew and is willing to go to great lengths to make sure Connor's eyes are opened to the possibility of romance and true love.

The Cast

Matthew McConaughey has done his share of romantic comedies, most recently a generic rom com that didn't sit well with audiences (the disappointing Fool's Gold). But Ghosts of Girlfriends Past steps outside the cookie cutter mold and lets McConaughey pour all of his considerable charm into the role of a player who, despite his raffish behavior, is deep down a guy who wants to be in a relationship - although it takes three ghosts to get him to recognize the fact.

Jennifer Garner, also a veteran of the genre, is the perfect yin to McConaughey's yang. Garner's Jenny (the only woman Connor ever lasted more than a few days dating) is solid and responsible. McConaughey's Connor's got a devil may care attitude and is completely unreliable. Both actors fit snugly in these roles which seem taylor made for their talents. And they have a surprising amount of chemistry - I would never have pictured these two together prior to Ghosts but it actually works well.

The supporting cast includes Breckin Meyer as McConaughey's monogamist brother who is the only one that wants Connor around for the wedding, Lacey Chabert as Meyer's bride-to-be who gets into bridezilla mode as Connor screws up the wedding plans, and Noureen DeWulf as Connor's patient, long-suffering assistant - the one female who doesn't succumb to Connor's charms. All are given their moments to shine, but it's Emma Stone as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past who absolutely steals this film away from everyone, including McConaughey and Garner. When Stone's on the screen, Ghosts is at its brightest and funniest. As an over-the-top, lost in the '80s dynamo, Stone chews up the scenery and makes the best of every single second of her screen time.

The Bottom Line

Matthew McConaughey Jennifer Garner Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner in 'Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.'
© New Line Cinema
Timing-wise, the beginning of May isn't a bad time to drop a romantic comedy into theaters. But it is a little strange that this one has Christmas release written all over it and yet we're seeing it at the start of summer. The snowy setting is understandable as it's a take off on A Christmas Carol and in fact one of the most memorable lines from the film involves McConaughey waking up after his ghostly visits, throwing open his window and yelling down to a boy shoveling snow - a scene lifted from A Christmas Carol - but the boy's response is priceless and unique to Ghosts.

Yes, this is a boy meets girl, boy loses girl (actually boy leaves girl), and boy tries his best to get girl back story. But there's more to it than that. The writing is impressive and snappy, and McConaughey and Garner make for quite an onscreen team. Director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls) keeps the tone light even when the subject matter turns heavy. Waters doesn't let Ghosts of Girlfriends Past take itself too seriously, while at the same time he never plays down to his target audience. We don't see McConaughey roaming around needlessly shirtless. The jokes aren't cheap and don't come at the expense of a generic romantic comedy supporting player.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past goes from lightheartedly fluffy comedy to a bittersweet tale of love lost and love found without ever turning sappy. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is fun, fast-paced, and a refreshingly different sort of romantic comedy.

GRADE: A-

Rated PG-13 sexual content throughout, some language & a drug reference

Release Date: May 1, 2009

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