Reimagining A Christmas Carol as a rom-com about a caddish lothario (Matthew McConaughey) who, after visitations from the ghosts of girlfriends past, present, and future, sees the error of his womanizing ways and commits to his one true love (Jennifer Garner), may’ve seemed like an ingenious concept. After all, Dickens’ classic has seen countless incarnations—as a comedy, as a musical—but as far as I know, this is its first stint as a chick flick.
But there's an inherent flaw in the concept (and execution) of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and it reveals itself pretty quickly.
You see, by the end of A Christmas Carol, nasty ol' Ebenezer does become something of a cuddly grandfather figure to the Cratchits and Tiny Tim, but he’s not—you know—boyfriend material. And while McConaughey is certainly convincing as the sleazy, self-adoring, unrepentent lady’s man, he may be a little too convincing. We hope for much better for Garner’s witty and with-it Jenny.
Of course, it’s possible a more inherently likeable actor, like say Paul Rudd or Justin Long, could’ve pulled off this part. But with his fake-and-bake tan and cheesy come-ons, McConaughey just seems like an escapee from the Playboy Mansion. Why would we want him to get the girl?
Michael Douglas has a few good moments as Conner’s Hef-like uncle, now a cautionary tale/ghost, who arranges for his nephew's visitations. And I continue to be charmed by newcomer Emma Stone, who plays the titular spirit. Her lack of vanity—here, she’s sporting frizzy hair, braces, and a truly unfortunate acid washed jacket—allows her to be genuinely funny.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is one of these alleged films for women where virtually every single female character is either sex starved or clueless or a crazed Bridezilla (the action takes place at Conner’s brother’s wedding)—except for our leading lady, who is equanimous and wise. I never quite understand why women would choose to patronize a movie that seems to hold our gender in such contempt. Just for the record, if I was ever at a wedding and I bumped into McConaughey’s Conner Mead, I’d run.