Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reel Thoughts: Past Imperfect

What is it with director Mark Waters? His directing career feels like it’s on a bungee cord of quality, and guess where Ghosts of Girlfriends Past ends up? Waters directed the strangely wonderful House of Yes, the totally “fetch” Mean Girls and the cute remake of Freaky Friday, but he also inflicted the horrible Head Over Heels on an undeserving public. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is yet another awful, disposable Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, but it is so rank and soured by easy gay jokes and ha-ha sexism, it’s hardly the counter-programming triumph the filmmakers planned. I can’t see many women being charmed by McConaughey’s piggish character, or empowered by any of the dozens of idiotic women who fill the movie.

Then, as mentioned, there is an endless onslaught of “jokes” whose punch lines depend on a gay person suddenly popping up to be ridiculed. If the film were an equal-opportunity offender, I might be willing to laugh it off, but when one joke is that an ex-girlfriend of Connor has had a sex change (and looks ridiculous) and another is that a bartender asks if Connor’s routine on women “works on guys, too”, it demonstrates how cheap the jokes are throughout the mess of a movie.

Connor Mead (McConaughey) is a no-strings sex-loving photographer who was taught to abuse women by his uncle, well played by Michael Douglas (who hints how much better the film could have been). Connor suffered an embarrassment at his prom, so now he takes no prisoners in conquering and discarding women. In some corners, that’s called a closet case, but the abusive Connor is considered the king of dating. He is the Scrooge in need of his own Christmas Carol, and he gets it in a totally predictable way. He sees his past (good), his present (bad) and his future (ugly), he really loves childhood pal Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), lessons are learned … blah, blah, blah. What isn’t annoying is utterly banal. This is one wedding invitation that should be Past up!

UPDATE: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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