By Roger Moore
The Internet Hate Fest for Matthew McConaughey reached its nadir this past week, with one blogger going so far as to call the goofy-go-lucky dude “Satan.”
But give the Devil his due. Whatever it is about him that so gets under some folks’ skin, he’s well-practiced at playing the cocksure ladies’ man, turning “Failure to Launch” and “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” into perfectly serviceable romances.
“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” is the best of the bunch, a romantic “Christmas Carol,” with Matty M. starring as a won’t-commit heel of a fashion photographer who goes through supermodels the way banks go through stimulus money. He’s so oversexed and over-booked that he has to break up “in bulk” — three women dumped by conference call.
But the wedding of his younger brother (Breckin Meyer) drags Connor Mead back to the family estate, back where he learned his womanizing ways from his late Uncle Wayne, back to the girl he let get away.
Jennifer Garner is perfectly cast as Connor’s first love, the one he fled because she’s onto him.
“Run along Connor. I’m sure there’s a bridesmaid waiting to be partially satisfied!”
Garner makes the perfect woman you don’t trifle with. She’s for keeps.
If Mr. “Love is a myth!” doesn’t get the message, there’s the ghost of Uncle Wayne to put him through one haunting night of life lessons. Uncle Wayne, the other coup in the film, is played by Michael Douglas at his lounge-lizard best.
“Dutch,” he tells the kid in one ghostly visit to the past, “you don’t want to be anybody’s first kiss. Or last kiss.”
The writers who wrote “Four Christmases” concocted this, but director Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”) is the one who keeps this zipping, at least until Connor starts tripping through his past, led by his “first” (Emma Stone). The wedding that the cynic is sabotaging, the banter with the ex-girlfriend, all sidetracked as we meet the forgettable mile markers in Connor’s life.
The ghosts aren’t all that, but “Ghosts” finishes well, and the familiar McConaughey heel-grows-a-heart story arc is engaging. But it’s the supporting players, from Garner and Douglas to Anne Archer (cougar mom of the bride), who have the best lines and help make Matthew M. convincing in his journey from devil-may-care to Devil who does care.