Wednesday, April 29, 2009

3 Ghosts Changed My Life

In Ghosts Of Girfriends Past, celebrity photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) loves freedom, fun and that order. A committed bachelor with a no-strings policy, he thinks nothing of breaking up with multiple women on a conference call while prepping his next date.  Connor's brother Paul (Breckin Meyer)is more the romantic type. In fact, he's about to be married to Sandra (Lacey Chabert). Unfortunately, on the eve of the big event, Connor's mockery of romance proves a real buzz-kill for Paul, the wedding party and a houseful of well wishers -- including Connor's childhood friend Jenny (Jennifer Garner), the one woman in his life who has always seemed immune to his considerable charm. Just when it looks like Connor may single-handedly ruin the wedding, he gets a wake-up call from the ghost of his late Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the hard-partying, legendary ladies man upon whose exploits Connor has modeled his lifestyle. Uncle Wayne has an urgent message for his protege, which he delivers through the ghosts of Connor's jilted girlfriends -- past, present and future -- who take him on a revealing and hilarious odyssey through a lifetime of failed relationships. Together, they will discover what turned Connor into such a shameless player and whether he has a second chance to find -- and this time, keep -- the love of his life.

It's gone well past cloying to see Matthew McConaughey play a ''charming cad.'' (The more he pushes the charm, the more the cad shows through.) But even if you've tired of the star's oily cocoa-butter narcissism, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past offers a solution, of sorts: It casts him as a studly photographer who is such a smarmy, dislikable (insert expletive of your choice) that the film doesn't pretend you're supposed to like him.  In the first scene, McConaughey, cast as a fellow named Connor Mead (that should get your hate juices flowing right there), swans around a photo set, firing off lewd remarks at barely dressed models. When they make goo-goo eyes at him anyway, the film seems to be endorsing this sleazy-does-it lounge lizard. Fear not, though — it's counting on the audience's revulsion. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, you see, is a chick-flick update of A Christmas Carol, with Connor as a heartless, babe-magnet Scrooge who, during the long weekend of his brother's wedding, gets his comeuppance when a series of ghosts reveal the train wreck — past, present, and future — that is his romantic life. The movie is cheesy, tacky, and gimmicky. But as directed by Mark Waters, it's also prankish and inventive enough to be kind of fun. As the ghost of Uncle Wayne, the Hefneresque bachelor who taught Connor how to be a pickup artist, Michael Douglas shows his gift for turning creepiness into light comedy. Laying down rules lifted from Neil Strauss' egregious insult-your-way-into-bed manifesto The Game, Douglas shows you the loser inside the swinger. And it helps to have Jennifer Garner, with her dimpled vivacity, as the lifelong object of Connor's affection. There's some funny business with a wedding cake, as well as a deeply unfunny (and shrill) performance by Lacey Chabert as the bride, but mostly there is Matthew McConaughey acting abashed — and, yes, a wee bit charming — as he gets the lesson he deserves. through its first act with little to offer in the way of comedy or romance. Connor is more cheesy than amusing, the supporting characters and situations feel re-used from other ghost or wedding movies, and the jokes are mostly pretty lame. There's also a crassness to the tone that makes it hard to laugh at the chick-chasing antics of Connor and his ghostly uncle. Surprisingly, though, things become more appealing when the film starts to focus, at first in flashbacks and then in the present, on the relationship between Connor and Jenny, one of the few women who seems immune to his supposed charms. The scenes involving the two characters as kids, then teens, then adults lead up to a pleasant if conventional third act in which Connor sees the error of his ways. While McConaughey does manage to give Connor a more interesting and vulnerable side in the story's latter stages, it's really Garner's understated performance that lends the film what charm and warmth it has. Surprisingly, there isn't much to say here. While I enjoyed this movie, it will surely be ine of those that will be seen and then forgotten. This gets a 3 on my "Go See" scale.

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