In Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a philandering photographer who doesn’t balk at seducing the ingénue he’s photographing while breaking up with three women at once via video conference call. The wholly loathsome lowlife lothario’s detached demeanor melts only when he talks about his brother, Paul (Meyer), or his childhood sweetheart and object of his unrequited—and unacknowledged—love, Jenny (Garner). A trip home for Paul’s wedding gives Connor the opportunity to retrace the events in his love life that have led him to become the womanizer he is today, courtesy of his Dickensian ghost guides.
Taking a page from A Christmas Carol, this lackluster imitation of a classic tale feels stale despite its unique romance angle. A few clever nods to the movie’s source material and genre conventions don’t make up for stilted dialogue and drawn-out scenes.
Michael Douglas stars as the Jacob Marley character to McConaughey’s Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s both the harbinger of the ghosts to come and the father figure who taught Connor his less-than-ethical ways. It’s a small role, but one that Douglas wears well. A less impressive performance comes from Emma Stone as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past. Normally a competent actor whose allure comes from her understated performances, Stone annoys rather than enlightens as the over-the-top Ghost. Luckily, Garner fares better as Jenny, resisting becoming just another notch in Connor’s bedpost and providing much-needed insight into Connor’s lady-killing nature. She also has a chemistry with McConaughey that makes their eventual, inevitable romance believable.
McConaughey has made a career out of playing the charming Casanova with a heart of gold in countless romantic comedies. His impish grin and Southern charm allow him to get away with onscreen transgressions a less attractive man could never be forgiven. And it’s even easy to excuse the mostly reprehensible Connor his womanizing ways when McConaughey flashes his pearly whites.
Ghosts is no different from every other romantic comedy McConaughey has inflicted upon the moviegoing world. But apparently there’s a reason why McConaughey makes millions for playing the same character: He’s good at it.