Seeing Matthew McConaughey’s name attached to a romantic comedy is akin to seeing a road construction sign on the highway.
Proceed with extreme caution and take another path if at all possible.
Yet the actor didn’t come this far based solely on how he looks without a shirt.
“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” out on DVD Sept. 22, may put another shovel of dirt on Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas story, but it’s still a modest reminder of what McConaughey can do with a complicated part.
If only the film weren’t so Scrooge-like with its own gimmick.
McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a photographer and ladies man of the first order. He’s forced to attend his brother’s wedding where he reunites with Jenny (Jennifer Garner), an old flame who didn’t fall for his charms like most women.
Connor generally flits from one sexual conquest to the next. But he’s stunned when the ghost of his beloved Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) visits him with some sobering news. He must end his womanizing ways – even though it was Uncle Wayne who taught Connor everything he knows about loving – and leaving – women.
The actor, channeling Hollywood producer Robert Evans, is a hoot who takes the film’s few great lines and runs away with them. It’s further proof of Douglas’ comedic chops … an almost untapped resource.
Naturally, three more ghosts follow Uncle Wayne’s appearance in true Dickens fashion. But can Connor change his stripes and reunite with Jenny?
It’s hard to imagine a film featuring McConaughey, Garner and Douglas could look terrible, but there’s something washed out and bland about the movie’s visual presentation. It’s poorly lit and drab, and while the blase color tone seemed like a setup for the ghostly sequences, the entire film looks unappealing.
And McConaughey keeps his shirt on the entire time. Sorry, ladies.
Good thing Garner is on hand to provide some romantic sparks. She’s tough but tender as Jenny, and you can see why she’s just the right person to rebuff Connor’s advances, and maybe help change his romantic patterns.
McConaughey delivers more than such a piece of fluff demands. He’s burdened with the Scrooge character arc, and while he could use another scene or two to ease the transition, he’s convincing as the rascal who’s about to see the light.
Less appealing is how shabbily the film treats its ghostly gimmick. Plenty of potential is pushed aside en route to the predictable finale.
It’s hard to fall for “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” but it’s also easy to see how it’s far better than McConaughey’r recent rom-com train wrecks.
(Photo: Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner play former lovers in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”/Warner Bros. Home Video)