Dickens' romantic retooling starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner deserves a bah humbug.
That sound you here is Charles Dickens rolling over in his grave like an airplane propeller.
If only his apparition could haunt the makers of "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" so they would mend their mundane ways posthaste. Either that or Chuck should employ the ghost of Jacob Marley to pound these mediocrities senseless with a Christmas goose.
It actually pains me to speak ill of this film since it was shot primarily in Massachusetts, specifically the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Martha-Mary Chapel in Sudbury and the Elm Bank Reservation in Wellesley. It also co-stars the eminently likable Jennifer Garner. However, it also stars the eminently ludicrous Matthew McConaughey, who hasn't starred in a good movie since Wild Bill Clinton was president.
Apart from the numerous film versions of "A Christmas Carol," the Dickens novel received a comical updating in 1988 with "Scrooged" starring Bill Murray as a modern-day Ebenezer and a scene-stealing Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Yours truly is also partial to Mr. Magoo's rendition. Razzleberry dressing, anyone? The less said about "An American Carol" the better.
One of the many problems with "Ghosts" is for a romantic comedy, it's not particularly comical unless, of course, you crack up over lame gay jokes. The script by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who previously teamed up for terminally unfunny "Four Christmases," is loaded with them. The knuckle-dragging demographic should be pleased.
Then there are the innumerable stereotypes. It's almost as if the filmmakers went shopping for them at Stereotypes 'R' Us and cleaned out the store. Three beautiful horny bridesmaids, check. Three ugly nerdy groomsmen, check. Hunky love interest for Garner's character who will somehow fade into the woodwork when McConaughey's character comes to his senses, check. Eccentric father of the bride, check. Alluring mother of the bride, check. A bridezilla, check. A milquetoast groom, check. A put-upon ethnic assistant, check.
Not a real human being in the mix. Even Garner's character comes off as too good to be true. How can you care about anybody if they're drawn with all the dimension of a single-ply piece of tissue paper?
Even more annoying than the stereotypes is the happy-sappy ending where everybody gets a partner, and I mean everybody, no matter how preposterous the circumstances. The bridesmaids hook up with the nerds and they're sober when they do it. The father and mother of the bride, who are divorced, rekindle their relationship on the dance floor. Happens all the time. The hunk also winds up with the assistant and the Beaver hooks up with Eddie Haskell. OK, maybe not everybody finds a mate.
The plot of the film has serial womanizer Connor Mead (McConaughey) scoring with more cerebrally challenged nymphs than Hugh Hefner on a Playboy Bunny bender. You see, the love of Connor's life, Jenny Perotti (Garner), broke his heart when he was a teen. To pick up the boy's spirit, Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) shows the lad how to pick up women and then treat them like trash.
Connor grows up to become a successful photographer of celebrities and models and beds every one of them. He conveniently meets Jenny, who's now a successful doctor. She conveniently has no boyfriend. The two get romantically entwined but... Wait, I don't want to spoil any of the mind-blowing surprises.
Anyway, Uncle Wayne, who has since died, returns as the Marley character to warn Connor he's going to be visited by three ghosts. Think by the third specter Connor will say see the light and change his evil ways, baby?
About the only thespian who shows any spunk during these shenanigans is Emma Stone as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past.
On the reality front, people who care even remotely about common sense may wonder how someone born in Rhode Island speaks with a Texas drawl, yet there's Connor who sounds like he hails way west of West Warwick. Got to love the designer stubble, too. Very sexy if you like necking with sandpaper.
As a charter member of the Jennifer Garner fan club, I feel it's my duty to wonder why she decided to waste her talent on this drivel.
A bigger mystery is the lackluster direction by Mark Waters, who showed such comic flair in the brilliant "Mean Girls" and the entertaining "Freaky Friday." A scene with an apple, a model and an archer is about as edgy as he gets here.
Bottom lime: No matter how good the cast and this one includes Robert Forster and Anne Archer no matter how skillful the director, a lousy script will sink a film faster than a bowling ball in quicksand.
That said, the movie should still do fairly well at the box office, thanks to the forgiving young female demographic. If boy ends up with girl at the closing credits, all is right with the world even if everything is wrong with the writing.
I have one word for "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past": Boo!
The film opens Friday, May 1.
"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Michael Douglas
Rated PG-13 (for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference), 100 minutes
Directed by Mark Waters