You, you and you, I'll have: Matthew McConaughey (far right) as Connor Mead), with Jennifer Garner in blue dress (center) as Jenny Perotti, in "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past", directed
by Mark Waters.  (Photo: New Line Cinema)

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past
Build Me Down Buttercup: Ratcheting Down A Player's Street Cred, In Three Ghosts Or Less
By Omar P.L. Moore/  SHARE
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

For all the rumors and perceptions about their lives on and off screen, Matthew McConaughey and Michael Douglas are tailor-made for "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past", an empty-headed comedy directed by Mark Waters.  Mr. McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a man with notches in his belt to display when it comes to women.  He beds them breaks up with them and has not even the courtesy of holding the lady tight following an evening interlude.  Connor, a magazine photographer, could have been given a nastier name or phallic pseudonym -- Connor Meat, Connor Head, or one even more crass and vulgar: Con Her Meat, for as graphic and offensive as that will sound to some reading this, the art of the con into bedding a woman is what Mr. McConaughey's character has down to a science.  To use a grammatically risky turn of sports phrase, for Connor women isn't everything, they're the only thing.  Mr. McConaughey's similarly vacuous surfer-dude hard-bodied pretty-boy big screen persona has come in for some major ribbing over the last few years ("Fool's Gold", "Failure To Launch" among others).  Still, in "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past", the actor's Connor character is being taught a lesson from one of an infinite harem of past girlfriends (or pit stops) in ghost format.  Connor has dumped and now it's his time to be dumped on, and he is, sometimes spectacularly, other times not so.

As for Mr. Douglas, he of the supposedly sex-addicted past -- on screen if not off -- ("Fatal Attraction", "Basic Instinct", "Disclosure") -- has a whale of a time as Connor's uncle, playboy emeritus Wayne Mead, the man who taught Connor everything he knows about the opposite sex.  As played breezily by Mr. Douglas, Wayne's ghostly presence is as entertaining as the character is misogynistic, and yet ironically Mr. Douglas, who in one scene looks ready to channel Gene Kelly, is the one of the only enlivening people in this canned film replete with stereotypes about women and the "bridezilla" types who wait in the wings just around the corner.  Robert Forster is also terrific as Sergeant Volkom, in several hilarious moments.  And Mr. Douglas' "Fatal Attraction" wife Anne Archer plays Vonda Volkom.  Guess who tries to seduce her?

Mr. McConaughey, so good in "Tropic Thunder", doesn't stretch much farther than a baby reaching for a prized toy with his performance here as Mr. Mead.  Like the character David Aames of Cameron Crowe's "Vanilla Sky", Connor Mead skates through life without a care in the world, an unthinking, unfeeling man whose being exists only for hedonistic adventures.  It's not so much that Connor's commitment phobic -- he despises the idea in ruthlessly cynical fashion, with alcohol, not dogs, as his best friend.  "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past", which opened in the U.S. and Canada last weekend, doesn't have the depth or the rougher and more complex edges of Mr. Crowe's 2001 film, but there are echoes of its (ghostly) presence.

The film's leading woman is underrepresented -- Jennifer Garner getting lead billing with her male counterpart as Jenny Perotti, a childhood sweetheart of Connor who knows everyone of his weaknesses.  Like an Achilles Heel, she has Connor pegged, but Ms. Garner is on screen for about 30 total minutes -- and that may be a generous estimate.  "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past", as weakly written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, reveals a shallow analysis of men and women even as it purports to expose its leading man as exactly that -- shallow.  Breckin Meyer plays Paul, Connor's brother, who looks up to Connor but is destined to avoid his player status as he readies to get married to the neurotic Sandra (Lacey Chabert).  Their brother relationship is distant, as distant as the film itself.  "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past" is the latest of the Hollywood romantic comedies released this year to make the fairer sex look like one-dimensionally cold, heartless and crazed creatures and its men look either fearful, stupid or the shallowest cads this side of the Jack Nicholson characters of "As Good As It Gets" or "The Witches Of Eastwick".  Mr. Waters film doesn't even take the chances that "Eastwick" or even Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" take.  Mr. Tarantino's films have strong, resolute women characters, even if they are sometimes overmatched on a male playing field; in "Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past", the women are present but completely out to lunch.

With: Emma Stone and Daniel Sunjata.

"Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference.  The film's running time is one hour and 40 minutes.


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