Charles Dickens' novel, `A Christmas Carol' is one of those literary works that has not only been adapted for screen several times, but because is such a powerful story about redemption that resonates with people, it has also been updated and given contemporary twists in productions such as: Blackadder's Christmas Carol, Scrooged and The Muppet's Christmas Carol, to name a few.
Ghosts of Girlfriend's Past adds itself to the long line of remakes or reimagining's of this classic tale, but rather than having the lead character learn the error of his ways about his cruelty and miserly conduct, we have a womaniser learning how to respect women through the aid of his deceased playboy uncle and `ghost girlfriends'. Besides the main concept of three ghosts visiting someone to change their ways, the film doesn't share many similarities with its source material, mainly due to the fact it is a romantic comedy.
Matthew McConaughey plays Connor Meade (not Ebenezer Scrooge!) who has been a notorious flirt and playboy since his early teens, with such misogynist behaviour as breaking up with three girls at once, on a conference call. Despite his ungentlemen-like behaviour, he still has much luck with the ladies and finds himself in many romantic trysts. He goes to his brother's wedding rehearsal dinner and after insulting many of the guests, he finds himself visited by the ghost of his uncle (Michael Douglas) who was the inspiration behind his womanising ways. His uncle explains that if he continues down thus path that he will die alone and that three ghosts will visit him and help him change his ways.
I'd never watched a Matthew McConaughey film before but I had heard negative opinions of his `acting skills'. Here he seemed entertaining enough, although he had a strange accent (almost Texan in places), which may have been his natural accent or a bizarre acting decision. Jennifer Garner was great as his female lead, managing to hold her own against him during his "chauvinist phase". I found the rest of the cast to be a bit bland, or in the case of Lacey Chabert who played the hysteric bride-to-be, slight annoying. Michael Douglas was a good choice for the cameo role as the deceased playboy uncle, since he has played roles of that type before in his earlier movies and became a little typecast as a man who lives life in excess.
The plot was predictable, considering it was using a well-worn template of a classic novel, but there was some entertaining moments, mostly pertaining to the flashbacks which the ghost of girlfriends past, played perfectly by a brace-wearing Emma Stone (my Hollywood crush) complete with frizzy hair. This was by far the funniest section of the film, mostly due to Emma's performance. She was quite over-the-top as the enthusiastic teenage first girlfriend and her banter with the grown-up Connor Mead was amusing.
Overall, this was a good film although it did suffer slightly due to the well-worn trail it was following. It is a double-edge sword doing a modern-day update for a classic tale, since you are inhibited by the structure of the previous tale, but at the same time you need to strike some originality in your own story to keep it relevant. While I think Ghosts of Girlfriends Past managed to strike a good balance between staying true to the themes behind `A Christmas Carol' and having its own message, I could see the strings behind the `puppets' sometimes and this would distract me from the actual storyline.