Written by: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster
It takes at least two to tango within a relationship and those that thrive find the proper balance of giving and taking for a long period of time. Success in this realm takes real work and something the protagonist of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past refuses to take on until forced to reckon with the pain left in his wake. While fairly sexist in some of its ideas, this wacky feature has just enough enjoyment to squeeze out of its imaginative plot.
Perpetual bachelor Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) has no issues with casual relationships with women, usually focused on action in the bedroom. However, most of the time it never goes long or even to a second date. When attending his younger brother’s wedding, he gets confronted by different ghosts showing him how many women he has hurt and what his future will be if he does not change.
Taking the basic plot of “A Christmas Carol” and shifting it to a story not so much about selfishness with money but rather genuine love and respect for women adds some fun to a famous formula. It allows anyone watching it to look back at their lives and see how they have impacted others and inform where they currently reside in life. While I admit this feature contains several unsavory bits that aged poorly the day it hit theaters, there are particular pieces in it that add up to something very enjoyable and most of it comes from Emma Stone.
Seemingly representing the titular character, she appears to Connor in showing how his escapade with women began and how it led to the man we see in the feature. From her initial introduction to her departure, Stone provides this wildcard energy encapsulating several of the roles she took on earlier in her career. Every joke and body movement she provided in her performance proves to be the greatest aspect this feature has to offer and this film could have done with more of her, even if it would not necessarily make sense for the plot. Still, she was just fantastic in this small role to make it the highlight of the entire feature.
As the story digs into Connor’s past, present, and future, the film demonstrates who served as an idol for this man, which was his uncle portrayed by Michael Douglas. Yet another actor who simply had a blast in the role given to him, which I suppose sets the standard of good performances in this feature overall. Douglas portrays this decrepit old man who taught Connor the idea of the one who cares less in relationships holds all the power. As Connor later learns, the power does not hold as much importance as his uncle led him to believe.
When at its most absurd levels, this feature hits its best strides. When it gets to its more emotional parts, the film shows its hollowness overall in quite a bad way. Additionally, its view on women leaves plenty to be desired. With Connor as the protagonist, it shows how he can tend to be quite the degenerate to the point where he dumps four women at the same time. Now, having a protagonist this bad certainly does not hinder a film, but the narrative’s central view on women barely moves the needle. They merely represent sex objects initially and just when you think the film clicks with its messaging, it stumbles right back into its fairly shallow assertions about them in general. Yes, women are sexual beings and their desire for Connor makes sense, I mean he’s portrayed by Matthew McConaughey. However, the amount of intelligence the film gives to these women falls solely on the main interest, Jenny (Jennifer Garner), and no one else. This fairly primitive look at women ultimately holds this film back and what has made it gain a justifiably negative reputation.
In the end, the only aspects of this feature saving it from drowning it in its backward views remain the supporting figures. From the zaniness of Emma Stone, the debauchery of Michael Douglas, and the unhinged bridal anxiety of Mean Girls alumnus, Lacey Chabert, they bring so much of the fun this film has to offer. McConaughey and Garner do their best with the roles given to them but it remains fairly shallow in its examination of Connor.