Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Directed By: Mark Waters
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Emma Stone, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Robert Forster, Anne Archer, Noureen DeWulf, Olga Maliouk
|Studio: Warner Bros./New Line|
Film Length: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1/4:3
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Release Date: September 22, 2009
The Film **In Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Matthew McConaughy plays Connor Mead, a successful fashion photographer who revels in his lothario lifestyle. After dumping three women at once via a conference call and one in person, he heads off to his family home for the wedding of his younger brother, Paul (Meyer), and his fiance Sandra (Chabert). His anti-commitment diatribes and mutual flirtation with three bridesmaids and Sandra's mother create more than a little tension. Only maid of honor Jenny (Garner), Connor's childhood sweetheart, seems immune to his charms. On the night of the rehearsal dinner, he is confronted by the ghost of his Uncle Wayne (Douglas), the legendary swinger who indoctrinated him into his "love is an illusion and commitment a prison" mindset. Uncle Wayne informs him that he will be visited by three ghosts through the night representative of his romantic past (Stone), present (DeWulf), and future (Maliouk). They manage to scare the "Dickens" out of him, but will it be enough to prevent him from alienating Jenny and ruining his brother's wedding?
As predictable as the plots are to most modern romantic comedies, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past adds a whole extra layer of familiarity by cribbing its plot from Charles Dickens' venerable seasonal chestnut A Christmas Carol. Of course, romantic comedies, like comfort foods, are popular because they are predictable. A lack of novelty is not necessarily a death blow if it goes about its business with enough style and wit. Unfortunately, that is not quite the case with this film.
From a technical standpoint, the film looks fantastic. The cinematography by Daryn Okada imbues the film's appearance with a sense of high production value despite certain cost saving tricks like having events that would cost a lot of money to render via special effects occur just out of frame with the soundtrack and the viewer's imagination filling in the details. Similarly, the film's score is rich and well recorded and one of the better pieces of film music I have heard in a romantic comedy recently.
Unfortunately, all of this technical skill is undercut by a pretty terrible script which makes some key mis-steps by way of adaptation. Replacing Scrooge with a serial tryster man-whore does not result in a heartwarming Dickensian impact as he gradually becomes more self-aware. Connor Mead appears to be having a blast as he mows through scores of beautiful women, and many of them are having just as superficially a good time with it as he is. Despite a late attempt to make his character seem more likeable by having his brother deliver a speech praising his behavior when they were younger and lost their parents, he remains a largely unsympathetic and uninteresting character throughout the arc traced for him in the film.
The script also saddles the cast with some pretty terrible dialog. As a matter of fact, the only cast member that manages to avoid having to deliver at least one honest to goodness groaner of a line is Olga Maliouk as the Ghost of Girlfriends Future who is mercifully allowed to remain mute. The bad dialog is a shame, too, because the cast certainly tries to give it their all. Michael Douglas really seems to relish playing such a broadly drawn lothario, donning a wardrobe that purposely evokes a 1970s-era Robert Evans. Actually, I suppose it is Robert Evans from any era since he never really updated his style. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif"> McConaughey gives a high energy, frequently over the top, performance in the central role of the "gigolo Scrooge", but I sense his overindulgence by director Mark Waters was an attempt to breathe some life into the otherwise flat proceedings.
Despite all of the problems I had with the script, the end result is not so much a film that is terrible as a film that is unmemorable. There just is not anything particuarly special about it that is likely to linger in a viewer's mind. It is not even quite bad enough to be offensive or insulting.
The Video ***½The film is presented via a 16:9 enhanced transfer letterboxed to the film's 2.4:1 theatrical aspect ratio and via a 4:3 reformatted version, both on the same side of a dual layered disc. I only watched the widescreen presentation for the purpose of this review. The film appears to be shot in a somewhat soft style, but there also appears to be some digital compression artifacts that intrude on a semi-regular basis. A lot of the film consists of dark interiors, and while contrast normally seems to be balanced, dark areas of the screen occasionally erupt in what looks like "digital grain" - possibly real film grain confounding the compression algorithm.
The Audio ***½An English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 384kbps is the only available audio option. It is a fairly unambitious mix that occasionally comes to life to provide mild ambience in the surrounds and wide stereo music, but otherwise is focused fairly solidly on centered dialog in the front channels. Fidelity is better than average for the relatively low bitrate. The orchestral score is one of my favorite things about the film and it is well represented here.
The Extras ½Continuing a disturbing trend in recent Warner new release theatrical titles, there are no extras on this disc. When the disc is first spun-up, the viewer is greeted with a series of promos presented in 4:3 video, letterboxed when appropriate, with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise indicated below:
- [*]Warner Blu-Ray Promo (16:9 enhanced -1:43)[*]My Sister's Keeper BD and DVD trailer (2:27)[*]Four Christmases BD and DVD Trailer (2:24)[*]17 Again BD and DVD Trailer(2:22)[*]Where the Wild Things Are Theatrical Trailer(2:08)
PackagingThe disc is packaged in a standard sized "Eco-Box" case with holes in the hard case to reduce plastic use. Both widescreen theatrical and 4:3 reformatted versions of the film are encoded on the same side of a dual-layered disc. There are no interior inserts to the case.
Summary**Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is a poorly conceived, poorly written, but visually sumptuous romantic comedy that leaves its cast flailing trying to breathe some life into its re-purposed Dickens plot. It is presented on DVD with a video transfer that suffers from some sporadic but prominent digital grain in dark areas of the screen and a 5.1 audio track that is not particularly ambitious, but presents the appealing score with decent fidelity.