Saturday, May 9, 2009

Movie Review: The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Oh, come on! It's a Matthew McConaughey movie called "The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"! It can't possibly by any good, right? Wait, it can? Whoa, didn't see that one coming. It's clear from the title that this is one of many, many, many films to steal, uh, I mean borrow the plot line from the Dickens classic. So you pretty much can guess the plot, "Don't tell me: McConaughey plays some douche bag playboy womanizer who doesn't respect women and doesn't believe in love or marriage, but his still secretly loves Jennifer Garner but he won't admit it, so three ghosts of his old girlfriends show up to make him reexamine his life, right?" Yup, that's pretty much it. Throw in his brother's wedding & Jacob Marley's stand in (Michael Douglas) in the form of his dead playboy uncle and that's more or less your plot.

The Pros: Um, you know what, I think we're better off doing the cons first this time.

The Cons: What, were you expecting cinematic excellent from a McConaughey film? You are a sad, strange little man. Anyway, this movie is many things but one thing it is not is unpredictable. Not that I was expecting it to be, I mean just the title is a warning that the story is as old as...well, Dickens. But still that does not excuse it. There's nothing that says they have to follow the plot scene for scene. It would've been great to see them shake things up a little, maybe make a romantic comedy without a happy ending for once. Well, I can dream can't I? CAN'T I?!

The writing is least half the time. The other half makes you want to bang your head against something very hard, or shoot yourself in the head with adamantium amnesia bullets, anything to erase the memory of what you just saw. For one thing, the logic behind the whole ghost thing is flimsy at best. None of them are actually ghost because they're not actually dead. At least the Ghost of Girlfriends Present (Noureen DeWulf) isn't, not to mention it's never explained whether she actually knows she's having this out-of-body experience in her normal life. Uncle Wayne (Jacob Marley stand in) is but with the Ghost of Girlfriends Past (Emma Stone) it's unclear. And the Ghost of Girlfriends Future (Amanda Walsh), well, doesn't seem to be anyone in particular, just the White Witch's less androgynous sister who shows up to be all Angel of Death-y.

The comedy is all either cliched or just plain not funny. There's the expected Dickens jokes, all of which are poorly executed. All of the wedding comedy troupes are here, from the slutty bridesmaids, to the blunt ex-military father-in-law & divorced in-laws, to the neurotic panicky bride. There were moments of humor that were so bad that they were funny again, but still, comic gold this ain't.

But the most fundamental problem I have with this film is with Jennifer Garner's character Jenny. She's McConaughey's (named Connor in this film) primary love interest, the girl he's known and loved since childhood, you know the drill (no pun intended). But here's the problem: When we go back in time and look at Connor's childhood, we discover that it's her fault he's like this in the first place! And that's no spoiler because this revelation isn't a plot point, it's a plot hole! She blew him off for the popular guy at their middle school dance even through she knew he was literally a split-second from asking her to dance (yes they were both already pretty much in love at this point), and they broke his heart, leading him to swear off love. And this issue is never brought up or confronted again. Jenny is treated as a total innocent who only half-heartedly owns up to her role in his emotional downfall once, when in actuality she's the shallow bitch who broke his heart. Sure she was young and immature then, but as I said, she never answers for or apologizes for it once.

The Pros, again: The reason I started with the cons is very simple: this is a bad film, there's just no getting around that. And when it it comes to it's pros, there's really no artistic merit here for me to point out. But despite all this, there was something at the core of this film that keep me from hating it. It's hard to describe. I can only call it heart. It's that indefinable part of cinema that can't be proved, only felt. Either you feel it or you don't. And despite all of it's flaws, this film, to me, had heart. I still hate Jenny. I still hate Matthew McConaughey. But some how this film managed to make me care about their relationship, even if I only cared about Jenny by default because Connor did (I know I had undying crushes on girls despite their being a bitch to me, so maybe this is just wish fulfilment). Of course, it could be it's just because it's nice to see the player get his just desserts. And even I had to smile at reformed Connor chasing down his brothers fiancee to save the wedding in a convertible to the tun of Elvis's "Burning Love".

The End: I have a confession to make: I don't watch a lot of romantic comedies, at least not the more recent ones. I'm a huge fan of the classic romantic comedies of the 30s & 40s, especially those starring Cary Grant. The man practically invented the genre, and consequently almost every modern romantic comedy borrows from him is some fashion, and as a result, they never do anything for me but to remind me there's a better movie I could be watching. So believe me, I'm really picky about my romance films. And if this thing could entertain me, trust me, there's something to it. And besides, you could do much, much worse.

Overall, I give The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past a Bronze Anarchy Coin.

Click here to visit the official website for The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

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