The less one likes Matthew McConaughey's romantic comedy persona, the more one's likely to enjoy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. The imperfect take on A Christmas Carol still falls for the genre's status quo message that love and marriage are the only way. But in mocking tacky role-playing cliches the movie goes somewhere better: Dissecting McConaughey's ladies' man image in Fool's Gold, Failure to Launch and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. In those films, McConaughey's dumb glow grew out of control by his lack of humility. None of those movies are at all watchable for anyone who doesn't share his opinion that he's the most charming man on Earth.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past sees through the McConaughey scam with self-deprecating humour (and it is a real performance). There's cold wit in his turn as fashion photographer Connor Mead trying to woo a pop star (Christina Milian) by telling her, "You're already gorgeous. Why do you have to be good at two things?" Connor is one of those guys who's spent a long time studying Neil Strauss' The Game, but when he's reacquainted with his childhood love (Jennifer Garner) at his brother's wedding, he sees the limits of his playbook. As Connor observes his past mistakes and present reputation, like Ebenezer Scrooge, the film reaches its own cheap conclusion: Anyone who thinks they're happy having carefree sex as a bachelor would really be happier settling down. But it comes at the virtue of its lead's psychic awakening. Director Mark Waters has funny observations about men and women's projected social attitudes about sex. It's cynical enough to be occasionally bright, and for a McConaughey vehicle, that's a major leap.
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