Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a snap review

Today, our choices of movies to see were Christian Bale’s Terminator or Mathew McConaughey’s Ghost of Girlfriends Past. Of course, with any Bale movie now off my viewing list, we shrugged and paid to see McConaughey. So, actually, due to Bale’s abusive rant, there WAS no choice.

I wasn’t exactly thrilled looking at the poster. It looked like it was going to be a chick flick, and indeed, it was exactly that. But I will admit that there are some chick flicks that I have enjoyed, and it turns out this was one of them.

In this one, McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a big time womanizer to say the least. Of course the fact that he got that way is not really his fault, it’s actually Jenny’s fault (played by Jennifer Garner), his girlfriend since childhood; and oh yeah, his Uncle Wayne gets much of the credit too, or, if you will, the blame.

They were 8th grade sweethearts attending a school dance together, when young Jenny leaves love struck Connor’s side to dance with a good-looking, wildly popular older boy, a kid in a varsity jacket who is more experienced with the ladies, a grade ahead, and a big time jock. Connor never stood a chance. Crazy in love with the apparently flighty girl, Matthew’s heart is smashed as he painfully observes his first love allowing the older boy to grab her ass and plant a deep “first kiss” on her, which she willingly returns. Crushed and disappointed, Matthew runs out of the dance and into his waiting Uncle Wayne’s car, his uncle played with a perfect mischievousness by Michael Douglas.

Douglas probably has the best part in the movie. He’s an inveterate love-em-and-leave-em kind of guy who becomes his young charge’s model in how to manage all his future relationships. In a nutshell the goal, learned from Douglas, is to sleep with as many different gals as possible and never EVER fall for any of them. In other words, Connor seeks to prevent any woman from hurting him again the way Jenny did. He learns this credo from his uncle, “The one who cares the least has all the power.”

At the film’s beginning, we find Connor a successful fashion photographer, a vocation that has made him very rich, and over the years has allowed him access to hundreds of women’s beds. In one flashback, just before he makes it really big as a fashion photographer, he meets Jenny again and talks his way back into her heart despite his Tomcat rep. After several dates he talks his way into her bed, but suddenly as he begins to fall asleep holding her in his arms, to his horror he realizes that he’s fallen for her. The next morning, she wakes up to find him gone. Poor Jenny is humiliated and devastated. (At this point, as far as I’m concerned, Connor’s even!) But Connor, seeing her devastation from his vantage as an invisible ghost, feels enormous regret and shame.

I got a little ahead of myself there. If you are familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you’ll immediately recognize that Connor is actually just another version of Ebenezer Scrooge. Just as Dickens used various ghosts to show Ebenezer the error of his ways, the writer’s of this wacky version (and about 50 other similar past cinematic knockoffs) of A Christmas Carol uses ghosts to lead Connor to a final conclusion that his Uncle Wayne was wrong all along.

In fact, Uncle Wayne is the first ghost that Connor runs into when he shows up at the family estate for his brother’s wedding. Connor isn’t as nearly as freaked out as I would have been if I’d have similarly run into someone who I knew to be long dead; but, it IS a movie after all, so let it go. Evidently, since death, Uncle Wayne has had a change of heart and tries to convince the cynical-about-love-and-marriage Connor that dying old and alone isn’t exactly a great thing. Nevertheless, Connor blows off his ghostly uncle’s advice. (Of course he does; otherwise, the movie would end after only about 30 minutes.)

Connor’s primary ghost guide is a 16 year old girl ghost, who is played by a woman who looks to be in her mid-30s. This supposed “girl” is the gal that Connor first lost his cherry to when he was just a young teen himself. This girl, her mouth noticeably filled with braces, is chirpily obnoxious as she leads Connor from scene to scene, always making the journey on a king-sized bed that slams down from the sky each time they jump to the next location. Obviously the bed is a metaphor for Connor’s life of one night stands.

Much of the movie takes place as the wedding party prepares for the next day’s nuptials. Right off the bat I got pissed when we meet Connor’s soon to be father in law. He is introduced as “Sarge.” What made me mad was that this guy was supposed to be a retired Marine Corps sergeant major. It is an absolute surety that no self-respecting sergeant major would ever allow himself to be called Sarge. He’ll either to tell you to use his first name, or if you must refer to his rank, it will be Sergeant Major. Call a real sergeant major Sarge anyway and expect to get knocked on your ass.

And while we’re talking about this so-called Sarge; there is a scene toward the end where McConaughey punches him out. Yeah right! A fashion photographer pretty boy is going to get the jump on a grizzled old sergeant major? No way, not even a retired one. In fact, the entire movie would be much better if they just took out the Sarge character all together. The writers inappropriately have their fun with him yet again at the wedding reception where he tells a ridiculously drunken blood and guts war story, which no one who’s actually been in combat would ever consider doing. Watching this idiot try to play a sergeant major of Marines ruined much of the whole movie for me. Robert Forster, who plays "Sarge," and all you writers of this film, you guys suck. Next time, do your research better and do NOT even try to turn a Marine Corps sergeant major into an object of derisive mirth, but I digress. (Deep breath... sigh...)

To make a long plot line short, a final “babe ghost” shows Connor what’s in store for him—a loveless life and a funeral at which no one but his brother shows up. This is actually a dream he has out in his car where he’s fallen asleep after being told to leave the house. His brother had finally had enough when the seed of Connor’s sabotage comes to fruition. Connor had let the cat out of the bag that his baby brother, years before, had once slept with one of the bridesmaids. Not believing in love and marriage himself, Connor’s shenanigans caused the wedding plans to fall apart when the bride learns of her fiancé’s past transgression.

The next morning, the day of the now cancelled wedding, although he doesn’t know the wedding is off yet, Connor awakes with a start in his own bed from a nightmare. In it, his brother from the future—now old and unmarried too, and all because of Connor—had pushed Connor into his grave, where he lands hard, 6 feet down, on his back. Looking up at the sky framed by the grave’s opening, Connor screams as “the ghosts “of all his old girlfriends gleefully shovel dirt over him.

Thrilled to be alive, Connor--now with a completely new lease on life, love and marriage—scampers downstairs, now utterly eager to be a part of his brother’s wedding day. But, the house is empty. He finds his downcast brother who forlornly tells him his fiancé called it off, “thanks to you Connor.”

In that over exuberant “McConaughey way” of his, he gets crazy and impulsively decides to go after his brother’s now ex-fiancé to make her change her mind. She and the rest of the wedding party have a pretty good head start, the road is deeply snow covered, and Connor can’t get his car to start. Instead, he jumps into his late Uncle Wayne’s “love mobile” and crashes straight through the garage door, wood and wreckage flying everywhere.

Shades of Schwarzenegger in Commando where Arnold recklessly flies down the side of a mountain in his 4 wheel drive after his kidnapped daughter, McConaughey does a similar stunt in his uncle’s caddy. At the bottom of the mountain, the caddy wrecked and at the bottom of an ice-covered lake; even so, Connor manages to stop the wedding party gone bust.

This is where the movie goes big time into chick flick mode. After knocking out Sarge with one weakass punch to the chin, McConaughey then pulls the “would be bride” from the car and goes into an almost ridiculous heartfelt pleading oration. His words fairly spill out of his mouth and all over the ground at the stunned girl’s the feet.

Lo and behold, surprise, surprise, she agrees and the wedding is back on. A relieved and happy Connor collapses exhausted into an embrace with the smiling young lady, now destined to be his sister-in-law once again.

At least three times during Connor’s bizarre beseeching tirade the camera cuts to Jenny inside the car. Listening to Connor’s heretofore unlikely words, we see her melting along with all the other girls in the car at his total change of heart. Sure enough, Connor works on her next, and bing-bam-boom, Jenny takes him back. The boy is on a roll. I mean, dang he’s slick. No wonder he was able to sleep with so many women during his confirmed bachelor days.

At the end there’s a big gooey wedding scene. I guarantee that nearly all females and most homosexuals leave the theater with misty eyes and lumpy throats. Chick Flick! Still, I admit I liked it too; mostly because this is a very funny movie. Michael Douglas is a blast, McConaughey ain’t bad, and the girl who plays the angry bride is a real hoot. She definitely steals several of the scenes she’s in.

When it comes out on cable I’ll be sure to watch it again, especially if I’m in the mood for a laugh.


Kat Argonza | Tough Girl 101 said...

Ah! I thought aht movie was too girlie!

PhilippinesPhil said...

So I take then that you didn't even really read my review. Otherwise, you would have remarked about my rant against the idiotic "Sarge" character.

Opass said...

Phil, you're turning into quite a skillful movie critic. Keep it up! I don't care to see this movie you reviewed here but I am waiting for the new Transformers movie to show up in a few days. I know my kid is gonna love that so I'm hoping to see it with him.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ya know E, the exercise of writing these things starts while you're watching the flick, and by knowing that I will be writing about what I'm watching actually makes me pay attention better. Ever see a movie and then kind of forget what you saw an hour after you saw it? Next movie you go see, watch it with the notion that you intend to review it. Guaranteed it will change the viewing experience.