Review: You can't run from your past, but you can run from Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

I'd rather get into a real-life version of a Saw contraption than sit through Ghosts of Girlfriends Past again. I'd rather have the Pang Brothers perform eye surgery on me or be strapped down and forced to watch Star Trek V: The Final Frontier for an entire weekend than have to see Matthew McConaughey try to be a playboy-in-the-making in this sappy comedy, where three ghosts come to try to change his philandering ways.

The Dickens, you say? If Charles Dickens could come back as a ghost, he certainly would have come back to slap around director Mark Waters a few times for adapting A Christmas Carol into this dreadful romantic comedy, set at the wedding of the brother of McConaughey's character.

Waters certainly knows how to make a fantasy movie, and he's been OK at it in the past. He directed The Spiderwick Chronicles (perhaps a bit too much, because the audience it was geared toward was terrified by it). He helmed Just Like Heaven (a clever twist on a ghost who wasn't really a ghost, which is also a gimmick that is used in this movie), and he updated the body-switching Freaky Friday (which was a deliciously funny part for Jamie Lee Curtis), and it made us forget about Jodie Foster's version of long ago.

But, this Ghosts is downright insulting, and it probably makes Breckin Meyer wish he were in another Garfield sequel rather than being stuck in this dog. Meyer plays Paul Mead, the guy who's getting married to a screechy and shrill bride-to-be, Sandra, irritatingly played by Lacey Chabert (to the point that every bit of dialogue is like fingernails scratching on a chalkboard). Paul's best man is supposed to be his brother, Connor, a fashion photographer who can easily bed any female he wants, sometimes two or three at a time. McConaughey is miscast as Connor, the heartless cad, because he always seems to have a glint of "I'm just kidding" in his eyes. In this case, maybe his darting eyes are just looking for an exit out of the film.

Anyway, in order to make the rehearsal dinner on time, Connor conference-calls his three girlfriends at the same time and does a universal breakup with them. It's as unfunny as it sounds, and it's worse when you later realize that the gals all get together to talk about him because they are shocked and their hearts are broken. Puh-leez!

Well, Connor makes it to the wedding party, and surprise, surprise, he's bedded all but one of the bridesmaids, including the maid of honor, who is his childhood girlfriend Jenny (played by Jennifer Garner, who should have gone all Alias on him and kicked his butt in their first scene together). Connor lovingly calls them the "bridesmaid estrogen lynch mob." Hilarity ensues.

Oh, that's not all of the belly laughs. There's the bit where Connor tries to pick up a sleepy-looking, hard-drinking sexy older lady at the bar (Anne Archer), who turns out to be the mother of the bride. (Oh, this is knee-slapping stuff, isn't it?) Connor should have known better, because this lady bears a striking resemblance to a wife who is determined to stand by her man, as in Fatal Attraction.

But wait, there are some SF elements here. The first ghost Connor sees is his Uncle Wayne (played by Michael Douglas as a painful version of a Hugh Hefner wannabe.) They meet standing at a urinal, because, well, all ghosts have to take a leak sometime. Uncle Wayne tries to make Connor see that he needs to change his ways and settle down, but all the talk of past orgies and female conquests doesn't really make a very convincing argument to anyone. Uncle Wayne is the guy who raised Connor and his brother after their parents were killed in a car accident, and that's the catalyst for Connor believing that true love just doesn't exist.

However, there was a moment that Connor had when he was a young boy, with Jenny at the swing set in front of the estate. When Connor returns decades later for the wedding, that ratty swing set is still there, and he looks at it longingly. (Sorry if I spoiled it; the swing set becomes a major character toward the end—and it's far more animated that some of the actors in the film.)

Not to spoil anything, but there are a few moments that are set up to be rather predictable. There are wincingly bad stereotypical geeks for the groomsmen (yeah, even an Asian techie geek), and they lust after the bridesmaids. There's the gruff, militaristic father-in-law (Robert Forster) who's conducting the wedding and doesn't think it should be held at all. And there's that multi-tiered, monstrous wedding cake poised precariously in the kitchen. (Oh, no! is it going to fall? Is Connor going to ruin everything?)

The ghosts of the girlfriends are relatively boring (except the beautiful one who doesn't speak, played by fashion model Olga Maliouk), and it's unclear whether they are actually dead. In fact, the Ghost of Girlfriends Present is Connor's secretary, who isn't dead and pops back and forth between the scene she's showing Connor and being his ghostly escort (yeah, it's confusing, but they wear different outfits so you can keep it straight).

Anyway, Connor gets the message by the end, and even opens the window with a big laugh the next morning, sees a boy playing outside and shouts, "Hey you, boy, what day is it?" Then he tries to fix all the stuff he's messed up for his brother's wedding while the rest of us are thinking, "Who cares?"

Why this was made for a PG-13 audience is quite perplexing, because it doesn't even portray a realistic guy that youth should be warned about, nor does it offer any life lesson worth spending time to learn.

If your date snags you into going to see Ghosts of Girlfriends Past this weekend, it's worth risking a breakup by excusing yourself and sneaking into the Wolverine movie next door. You'll thank me.