I sat through Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and lived to tell about it. The funny thing about these formulaic romantic comedies is that they’re so utterly predictable now there is no point in actually involving yourself with the characters; you know who is going to end up with whom, you can almost calculate the steps getting there. Every once in a while there will be a semi-funny joke and you’re so grateful.Ghosts of Girlfriends Past tells the story of a playboy (Matthew McConaughey) who is visited by three ghosts, a la Dickens. We all know from the beginning exactly how it will end. They cast Jennifer Garner as his long-los love Jenny (why are they always named Jenny?) – a pretty, sassy doctor. But our playboy is just too shallow to see women for anything but a casual roll in the hay. He hates marriage, hates commitment, hates spooning. Yes, spooning.The unfortunate beginning paints the playboy as someone who sleeps with everyone seconds after meeting them, breaks up with his girlfriends on a conference call, can’t spend the night and definitely can’t spoon, not under any circumstances. It is kind of icky watching him with the scantily women bumping and grinding away, probably because there is an inherent vicarious thrill for the audience. Clearly, by the end, the wild man is going to be tamed. He’ll be “fixed” by the three ghosts who show him what he is apparently unable to see. The first thing is that Jenny broke his heart at the middle school dance by going off with some overly confident guy who gave her her first real kiss. That act of betrayal is what forced our playboy to forsake relationships. The story is framed around a wedding. What else? It confirms love and marriage just in time for June! What it doesn’t tell you, though, is what we all already know: no one can change in 24 hours, no matter how many ghosts come to visit. Still, a healthy suspension of disbelief is just what couples want at this time of year.Matthew McConaughey is his own genre by now. He’s done so many of these kinds of films lately one wonders what anyone ever saw in him way back when. He probably figured out that acting is better when it’s more about collecting a paycheck than it is about validation. Or perhaps he’s trying to jockey for more power by doing films that do well at the box office. Either way, he’s fast becoming a brand. Not such a good thing for career longevity. It isn’t that Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a bad film. It’s more that there are so many other films out there exactly like it. When all is said and done, it doesn’t say anything new about the battle between monogamy and philandering. But no one is going to gain insight; they’re going so that they can be swept away. Aren’t romantic comedy wedding movies fun?
At the Movies: If I Was Your Girlfriend: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past **
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