Opening in theaters everywhere today, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a searing epic about a strapping young prince (Matthew McConaughey) and a lonely milkmaid (Jennifer Garner) who discover an unhatched dragon egg (Lacey Chabert) while lost in the Balkan wilderness. Within ninety neat minutes, they learn about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and the perils of raising an unlicensed pet dragon in Eastern Europe. Or at least, that’s probably how the film would’ve played out before the final rewrite doomed its fate as the direst thing to ever happen to Charles Dickens since A Diva’s Christmas Carol starring Vanessa Williams.
Frankly, Ghosts probably wouldn’t suck so much if writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore didn’t pilfer the defining aspect of A Christmas Carol and pare it down to something unbelievably banal as a tour of Matthew McConaughey’s one-night stands, during which his synapses flicker indeterminately towards an epiphany. Although the whole she-bang comes with a hilarious twist! Matthew McConaughey is haunted by the ghosts of his past girlfriends at his younger brother’s wedding — they are the titular ghosts. Uproarious. Sure the wacky poster spiritedly proclaims, “You can’t run from your past!” But in a cinema hall, you can, and probably should, run towards the exit! And this is as determined by some people, who in these ruinous times, still find a way to make money about writing about film.
For example, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers raves, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past never comes as close as spitting distance to a laugh.” Sighs the film fellow over at Variety, “A second-rate sex farce … mostly clunky and vaguely unsavory.” Also: “Above all, it will make you long for a day when studio movies about relationships feel like they are by and for adults who have actually been in one,” (Village Voice). The harshest diss, however, comes from that land of two-toned hair and denim cut-offs, via The Arizona Republic, “Quite honestly, you have much better things to do with your time.” There was one good review too, but it was the sort of thing you’d say to make sure the distribution company would grant you a private press junket with the stars.
Ultimately, with an approval rating that scrapes in at 13%, Ghosts is just twice as good as Gigli. I could probably go on about how maybe matters would’ve been helped if McConaughey and Garner didn’t just play camera-conscious versions of themselves. Or how the producers could’ve gotten better actors for less. But I have to go panhandle by the multiplex instead, to see for myself whether Beyoncé can truly best Wolverine tonight. Although, honestly, I wouldn’t mind it if it ended up a clean draw.
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