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    Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

    Wed, 29 Apr 2009 16:29:30

    Movie Reviews: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

    In Harlan Ellison's Twilight-Zonish short story "All the Birds Come Come to Roost," a man is disturbed to realize that he is encountering his former lovers in reverse chronological order. This causes him increasing distress, knowing that he eventually must come face to face with one who ended up in an insane asylum.

    Unfortunately, the ghastly in a different sense Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is not an adaptation of that creepy tale. Instead, this witless would-be comedy features insufferable, good ol' himbo Matthew McConaughey as womanizing cad Connor Mead, who gets taken on a Scrooge-like tour of his past, present, and future by female spirits. They want to show him the error of his love-denigrating ways before his brother's wedding, an event that cynical Connor is determined to prevent.

    In a convenient plot contrivance, Connor's long-ago girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Garner) is the would-be maid of honor. Although their brief affair didn't last, their mutual animosity and fondness for cutting insults means they clearly are meant for each other. Unfortunately, Connor comes off as too misogynistic and mean to make us want a nice girl like Jenny to give him a second chance. Even after he is supposed to have realized the error of his wanton ways, he still seems like a snaky, insincere frat boy on the make.

    Michael Douglas plays the ghost of Connor's deceased Uncle Wayne, a sleazy Robert Evans lookalike who taught Connor the fine points of loving and leaving the ladyfolk. His ethereal presence screws up the movie's Christmas Carol comparison, considering he isn't one of the three main tour guides. But Douglas has hammy fun playing the lounge-lizardish lothario who learned his lesson too late, and who wants to keep Connor from ending up as another pathetic old playa.

    During one supposed-to-be-sensitive stop on Connor's supernatural sojourn, he is showered by what Uncle Wayne says are all of the tears that Connor's cast-off girlfriends ever shed, followed by a snowfall of the tissues they used to dry their eyes. Instead of leaving that tender moment alone, Uncle Wayne then sends Connor scurrying by saying the next thing to fall from the sky will be every condom Connor ever used. Thankfully, there was no hail of herpes blisters or fusillade of unwanted fetuses.

    Connor's trip through his past is so unamusingly endless that it's a genuine relief when his present and future journeys turn out to be much shorter. Also, director Mark Waters throws away what should have been the movie's best sight gag—Connor's inadvertent destruction of a huge wedding cake—by having it take place offscreen.

    Forget the movie and go read the story instead. The one this movie didn't adapt, that is.

    —James Dawson
    04.30.09

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