If ever there was a star to solidify himself into one genre it’s Matthew McConaughey. While he certainly works well in the romantic comedy genre, it seems lately that’s all he has been in (barring a few action/comedy hybrids and a really bad direct-to-video surfer movie). There’s good reason, of course: he’s eye candy. Also he can act fairly well, so those are the two minor elements that make him really desirable for the chick flick genre. But, as audiences found with his latest outing, he doesn’t always bring the goods and the poorly received Ghosts of Girlfriends Past fails to kick up any sense of originality as it merely Frankenstein’s two different stories together to create one big pile of meh.
Connor Mead is the kind of guy who dumps three girlfriends. At the same time. By teleconference. So when he attends his brother’s wedding he has a single goal: score with the only bridesmaid he somehow missed. But the ghost of his departed Uncle Wayne –who taught him to love ’em and leave ’em – has another goal in mind: restore Connor’s lost faith in true love, a tough assignment requiring the services of many, many Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas and director Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Just Like Heaven) uncork a romantic romp as bubbly as wedding-toast champagne. It’s the perfect comedy for anyone who believes in laughs and love. Or needs to.
I had some pre-conceived notions about this film going into it and, admittedly, that didn’t help my overall opinion of it. Having said that, however, I must say that what I thought I was going to get out of this film wasn’t even what I was given and once I got over the initial shock and surprise of this, I realized I may have been a little bit more satisfied if it had been more predictable. As is the film merely moves from scene to predictable scene in such a way that you could never, ever care about the characters. It’s remarkable how a film can feel so sure of itself and yet fail to deliver on so many levels.
Let’s start with the concept itself. While it’s an overly obvious rehash of A Christmas Carol, the way this film pulls it off is not with so much finesse as it is…a hammer to the head. McConaughey is an immediately unlikeable jerk who sleeps around constantly and breaks up with women in conference calls. This is fine though, because we want to dislike the character, even if we never actually get there. Even when he redeems himself there’s still not much to enjoy about the character, aside from the fact that he was “hurt” when he was younger and cut himself off from emotional attachments because of it. That’s what the ghosts tell him anyway, in thoroughly unconvincing and boring trips into his past and future.
Nevermind the fact we don’t really get an explanation for where the ghosts even came from (some may pinpoint the booze as the reason for their appearance, but it’s such a random bit of plot twisting that it doesn’t matter) or why certain ghosts were chosen (you got a sense of anticipation for each ghost that showed up, only to end up rather disappointed; I still don’t know who that ghost of the future was). The film wasn’t even very convincing in with the scenes we did see. For instance, why was McConaughey trying to soothe and guide his former self? Who would see an image of themselves as a child and then make comments as if they were some kind of child or sibling that they had to mentor? It just felt awkward and out of place.
In the end the entire film is just a pointless endeavor. We know he’ll have a change of heart and get the girl in the end, but you almost don’t care if it happens. The girl that he’s trying to win back, played by Jennifer Garner, is already pairing up with someone else at the wedding and he’s a genuinely likeable guy (not to mention he’s a cast member of Rescue Me, so I may be a bit bias in that regard), so watching McConaughey change back to his former self is no real treat for the viewer. The only enjoyable moment comes when McConaughey gives a speech to the runaway bride and even that is fleeting.
Overall there’s little to enjoy about this film. There are very few laughs and as nice as McConaughey look on screens, never is it enough to the point that it is all you need to enjoy the film. I didn’t expect much from this film going in, as I previously stated, but what I got coming out of it was even less than I’d imagined. There is just nothing of value and even as a fluffy piece of afternoon viewing; it still doesn’t have enough substance to satiate. I can’t even imagine how chopped up this film will be on television either—if they’d added in an F-bomb and the slightest hint of nudity, I’m sure it would’ve been slapped with an R rating. It’s the least family friendly romantic comedy I’ve ever seen and as such isn’t even something you can comfortably watch with younger viewers…unless you feel like explaining the constant innuendos and why McConaughey won’t leave the ladies alone. Rent It if you’re truly curious.
The set itself arrives in a two-disc (second disc = digital copy) Elite Blu case with the usual round of inserts and a cardboard o-sleeve that replicates the art underneath it. This is another entry in Warner’s growing line of “special features on the Blu-ray releases only” releases and as a result anyone who really liked this film…well, you’re going to need to pick up this release as the DVDs are barebones (and flipper discs!).
Video arrives in a VC-1 encoded transfer and, as you’d expect, from a modern film, it looks fantastic. There were quite a few really nice shots in the film that just heaped on piles of detail in the picture; particularly impressive was the setting of the old mansion (or whatever it was) where the wedding was to take place. The texture that such an old place brings really made the settings for the film at least visually interesting. Close-ups were occasionally a tad soft in appearance, but overall it was a solid video transfer. The audio, a 5.1 TrueHD mix, left a bit to be desired as this isn’t really a sound effects driven film. The dialogue was crisp and clear and dominated the front channels, but rarely did you hear a surround effect aside from a few of the crowded party sequences. Subwoofer output was even rarer, with that only kicking in during the appearance of the ghosts (which, in turn, freaked McConaughey out and caused him to trip over stuff and slam doors). Overall a solid technical presentation for a mediocre flick.
Recreating the Past, Imagining the Future (HD)
It’s All About Connor (HD)
The Legends, The Lessons and the Ladies (HD)
Additional Scenes (3 total)
The three featurettes are the usual fluffy fair, although “The Legends” featurette is interesting as it has McConaughey and Douglas discussing their storied past in portraying ladies men. “It’s All About” is just a featurette of the co-stars discussing McConaughey and his real attributes (oh so exciting!) and “Behind the Scenes” is just your typical making-of piece. Additional scenes aren’t all that exciting and unfortunately as of this writing the BD-Live bonus feature isn’t live, although from the documentation I have on this release it sounds like it’ll be a featurette on the long shot of all the women Connor dated.
Overall a decent release, but…really, this film is just so disappointing that no amount of extras could make up for it. I could kind of see the uniqueness in its premise even if it did rip it from other films shamelessly, but at least it sounded original on paper…it just ended up being a very predictable and boring film. Rent It.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on September 22nd.