It’s A Christmas Carol crossed with The Wedding Crashers crossed with lobotomised generic rom-com in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, director Mark Waters’s slushy love anthem that mingles Dickens’s famous morality fable with the ever-wooden Matthew Mahogany. Mahog, er, McConaughey stars as a promiscuous a-hole who Hates Love and woos ladies by reciting humdingers like “every night I swim in a lake of sex” and “spooning is nice but forking is better.” Over-played bastardry in act one suggests over-played salvation is comin’ up in act three and thus it is so, the protagonist Connor Meade (Mahogany) destined for a crude philosophical U-turn upon the arrival of three ghostly girlfriends who come to visit on the eve of his brother’s wedding.
The first supernatural visitor isn’t a woman but Michael Douglas, who for no apparent reason bases his performance on caricaturing the late studio mogul Robert Evans, with a dash of Hugh Heffner thrown in for good measure. Douglas is Uncle Wayne, Connor’s uber cool chick magnet mentor, but unca is back from the grave to pooh-pooh his old lifestyle and nudge his nephew down the righteous road towards meaningful long-lasting monogamy (with Jennifer Garner no less) and sickly sentimental wedding speeches. In one scene Connor and Wayne attend Connor’s future funeral, with only his younger brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) in attendance, and Wayne quips “nobody’s really gonna miss ya.” The same could be said if Mathew McConaughey went the way of the dodo and never made a movie again.
There are flashes of fun: it’s hard to resist Douglas’s brand of silver fox cool-cat and occasionally the script connects with funny lines but boy, this is a botched job. The dialogue is mostly awful, with even the faintest of emotions horribly overdone. The character arc is not in the least plausible; it’s impossible to accept Connor’s swift transformation from love/relationship naysayer to repentant, wise, all round apple pie gosh darn good bloke. The extreme sentimentality – the script breaks a valve, gushes sentiment and badly needed a screenwriter to plug it – is borderline intolerable and, unforgivably, Mahogany gets two vomit bag speeches: one to save the wedding and the other to celebrate it.
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The best and most horrific visual gag is a flash back to Connor in the 90s, which is McConaughey with eerily white teeth, orange fell-asleep-in-a-solarium tan, Fabio mullet cut and a gaudy shirt three buttons open. It is a disgusting sight: McConaughey playing a sex god but looking like a rotting piece of pumpkin crossed with Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler. It’s tempting to say this grisly image almost makes the rest of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past worth it, but that’d be a blatant lie. Truth is, McConaughey’s mug is a bad omen for any movie. Just take one look at his cheesy face on the poster and ask yourself “do I really want to see this movie?”
Australian theatrical release date: May 7, 2009