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Monday, 25 May 2009

Ghost of Girlfriends Past

It sounds like the most painful idea for a movie ever: a slick womaniser (Matthew McConaughey) is visited Christmas Carol-style by the titular Ghosts (Past, Present, and Future) and ends up seeing the error of his sleazy ways. But in our very own Christmas Miracle - in May, no less - the end result turns out to be a lot more fun than anyone had any right to expect. And why? Through the simple application of one of the most basic rules of story-telling: if your story is about a bad guy who turns good, first off he has to actually be a bad guy. So for roughly the first half of the film we get to enjoy seeing the always charming (but rarely put to good use) McConaughey as the most sleazy man alive, riffing out pick-up lines that make no sense but thanks to his charm get the job done on-screen and seem all-too believable in real life. Meanwhile, the movie's plot moves forward briskly as he heads off to the mansion of his now-dead but still ghostly Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas, having a lot of fun as a old-style womaniser) for his brother's wedding, only to find his former true love (Jennifer Garner) there as the Maid of Honour. The ghostly goings on are Uncle Wayne's way to turning his nephew from his womanising course and into his true love's arms, which again sounds sappy but actually works thanks to just-enough self-awareness to prevent this from taking itself too seriously right up until the end, when full-on declarations of love are exactly what the story (and the audience) demand. Sure, it's a chick flick - and worse, one where the guy actually changes for a girl - but it's fun and funny, and a lot more entertaining than a concept this lame has any right to be.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #453)