April 27, 2009 / 5:33 PM / 10 years ago

"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" a true terror

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has been subjected to many indignities, from high school pageants to tired Hollywood remakes. But “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” makes you wish you do believe in ghosts so the old man can come back and sue somebody over the lamest and easily the worst revisionist take on his classic story.

Cast member Matthew McConaughey poses at the Mann's Village theatre in Westwood, California August 11, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

The head-shaking concept here — you shake your head that anybody would develop the story, much less greenlight it — is that Scrooge the miser is now Connor the sexaholic confronted with the past, present and future of his bad behavior with women so he can reclaim the girl he always loved.

It’s even worse than it sounds as one can at least see potential for laughs about a man who runs from females as fast as he can following the climax of the only thing that interests him about women. As written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and directed by Mark Waters, the movie clumps through one witless if not wince-evoking sequence after another without the relief of laughter.

Witlessness lately has not proved a surefire drawback at the box office, so these “Ghosts” might attract younger viewers when it opens on May 1 against “Wolverine.” The New Line/Warner Bros. film, though, certainly will test the drawing power of Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

To tell the truth, they don’t exactly sparkle either. McConaughey has played these roles all too frequently: a cock of the walk who struts through a movie with a loose grin that draws women to him like bees to pollen. He’s supposed to be a scion of an old New England family — unaccountably one with a Texas accent — a fashion photographer who only takes pictures of semi-nude women who immediately jump into bed with him.

Instead of Christmas, it’s the wedding of his brother (Breckin Meyer) that he bah-humbugs to the point of destroying everyone’s pleasure and causing the bride (Lacey Chabert) to call off the wedding. The only woman he can’t fluster and certainly can’t coo into bed is Jenny (Garner), the childhood friend who, you instantly realize, is the one who REALLY LOVES him.

Well, the ghost of his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the man who taught him how to treat women badly, shows up. Sure, Connor’s been drinking quite a bit — in fact, add alcoholism to his sexual addiction — but as the ghost warns, three female apparitions do appear to guide him through his early life to gravesite to demonstrate the hollowness of being sexually profligate.

It’s hard to pinpoint the absolute nadir of these screwy sequences, but perhaps it comes when Douglas pulls out an umbrella and insists that the rain coming down is actually the female tears shed for him over the years ... followed by a rain of tissues used to dab those tears ... followed by a rain of condoms he used. We are not making this up.

Garner does all she can with a thankless role but is unable to convince the viewer that she would find anything about this guy the least bit attractive. For his part, McConaughey is all too convincingly a jerk, enough so you wish Connor would miss the point of these ghostly scenes and hurry off to that graveyard with its one mourner.

If anyone comes out of this with dignity it might be Anne Archer, the highly attractive mother of the bride who gently turns down Connor’s proposition but at least finds it flattering. He should be so lucky.

All the magical effects feel cheesy, but that might be the fault of some of the concepts — like his flashback tour taking place in a flying bed. What can any effects supervisor do with that?

Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters

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