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Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Directed by Mark Waters
As its paranormal title suggests, Ghost of Girlfriends Past
exists in a kind of generic limbo, not completely into its family farce thread, not nearly ready to commit to a wedding movie structure, and a little too lively for the its romantic comedy straitjacket. Instead, director Mark Waters (Mean Girls
) and screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (who recently collaborated on Four Christmases
) work one angle until they come up against some impassable narrative obstacle, leap through the wall to the adjoining genre and rifle through its backlog of familiar scenes and jokes before moving on again.
Strangely enough, everything starts with what might be a haunting homage to Blowup
, as fashion photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) struts into his Tribeca studio purring orders to underwear-clad models and assistants who probably model when they're not assisting. Connor shoots, dates, beds and breaks up with women in bulk. Later that day he reluctantly pilots his Jaguar to the Mead estate in Newport for his younger brother's (Breckin Meyer, typecast again as the wimpy softy) nuptials. From here Waters and company deploy the ghosts of marriage movies (My Best Friend's Wedding
), bromances (anything Kevin Smith) and rom-coms (Forces of Nature
) past — with a hint of It's a Wonderful Life's
reform-sparking "what if" voyeurism.
Aside from McConaughey and Michael Douglas — playing the primordial bachelor uncle's ghost like a younger Jack Nicholson channeling Hugh Heffner — Lacey Chabert's few moments as the on-edge bride and Emma Stone's spirit-guiding as the ghost of Connor's first sexual partner are the only lively performances amongst Ghosts
' stiff and soulless supporting cast. As Connor's marriage bait Jenny, Jennifer Garner behaves like, well, bait. She floats through the narrative as if dangling from a string, moving with the currents before finally (obvious spoiler alert) hooking him when Connor realizes how inherently empty a lifetime of bachelorhood would leave him (and, by absurd extrapolation, the lineage of Mead men).
In fact, for a movie where casual sex is discussed or implied (but never quite performed) in nearly every scene, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
way overcompensates in its total endorsement of heterosexual monogamy. Everybody winds up coupled, healthy, skinny, rich and racially matched — even the two non-white characters (there are only two, this isn't Rachel Getting Married, sadly) get together a split second after seeing each other for the first time in the most offensive of this film's offensive last-minute narrative sutures. For all their dirty interludes, the lessons Connor's ghostly girlfriends come back to impart are frighteningly passé.