Imagine yourself in a Hollywood pitch meeting: Hey, let’s do A Christmas Carol. But instead of that loser crap—lame boys on crutches, holiday spirit—we make it about a sleazy lothario at a wedding who learns that his love-’em-and-leave-’em lifestyle is, like, shallow. (For the record, you make air quotes when you say the word shallow.) Plus, the spirits are totally hot chicks! The studio executive suggests casting the Lone Star fratboy movie star who seems genetically incapable of wearing a shirt whenever a photographer is around. Aren’t people tired of Matthew McConaughey doing his manufactured aw-shucks-ma’am act by this point? you wonder. The suit scoffs. People who go to these movies will buy anything, so long as the actor smiles a 1,000-watt grin and everything turns out okay.
Sound cynical? Yes, and appropriately so, because Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is the kind of breezy fantasy about recognizing true love and courting redemption that inspires nothing but misanthropy. (As a particularly Zen colleague asked: If something is neither romantic nor comedic, can you technically call it a romantic comedy?) There’s precious little to elicit laughter or pitter-pattering in Mark “Mean Girls” Waters’s attempt to sell saccharin-flavored sweet nothings—certainly not the lead’s one-dimensional swagger, Michael Douglas’s Rat Pack--meets--Robert Evans jive talk or an antimisogyny parable with the gall to make every female a neurotic shrew or a sex-starved harpy. McConaughey’s character is finally forced to face up to past transgressions; one day, the filmmakers behind this rancid, hypocritical farce will have to deal with theirs.—David Fear