I’m a big fan of Matthew McConaughey. I love Sahara a lot more than some people tell me I’m supposed to, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Fool’s Gold when I rented it for my mom. McConaughey plays an explorer in both of those movies, and he showed the fire and the passion for archaeology and treasure that was missing from the Lara Croft movies, for example. He’s charming and he’s funny and he brings everything he’s got to his roles. There’s not a lot more that you could ask for.
Then there’s Jennifer Garner. Sweet, sweet Jenny Garner. I fell in love with her immediately in Alias. She was delightful and effortlessly hilarious in 13 Going on 30. She’s tough beyond tough in one of my all-time favorite movies, The Kingdom. And I’d give a lot — and I mean a lot — to get to kiss those lips.
That’s why I was glad to go see their new collaboration, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, with my friend Erin on Sunday.
McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a photographer who spends more time taking off his models’ clothes than he does actually taking their pictures. The girls are happy to oblige. He’s been afraid to open up his heart since his parents died in a car accident when he was a little boy, and being raised by his Hugh Hefner-worshipping uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) didn’t exactly help him nurture the healthiest attitude towards women.
But his heart has always beaten for Jenny Perotti (Garner), who in turn has always loved Connor more than anyone. Jenny took it harder than he ever knew when he ran away one morning without explanation; he loved her back, but he was too afraid to let her all the way in.
Now Connor’s little brother, Paul (Breckin Meyer), is getting married, and Jenny is one of the bridesmaids. When Connor arrives he manages to offend everyone with his harsh attitudes about marriage and love, and he does the classic romantic comedy thing where he’s mean to Jenny but only because he’s terrified of how much he loves her.
That’s when he sees the ghost of Uncle Wayne in the bathroom, who tells him he’ll be visited by three ghosts. And so begins Connor’s tour of the mistakes he’s made and the mistakes he can still fix if he’s man enough to change his ways.
It’s silly, but it’s sweet. The miles of confidence behind McConaughey’s smile make him perfect for a role like this, but he’s also got the chops to convey regret and change when the time comes. He’s good at physical comedy, too, especially during the spectacularly disastrous wedding cake scene.
Garner is sunnier than ever here, with an exuberance that won’t quit. She capably goes toe-to-toe with McConaughey both dramatically and romantically, and it’s impossible not to fall all the way in love with her every second she’s on screen.
Michael Douglas is a hoot as Uncle Wayne. Robert Forster is a lot of fun as Paul’s future father-in-law, whose Korean War flashbacks make their way into all of his speeches — especially his gut-busting riff against M*A*S*H*. Anne Archer, whom I just watched for the gazillionth time as Harrison Ford’s wife in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, is still super hot as the bride’s mom.
The bride in question — Sandra — is played by Lacey Chabert, who’s strikingly gorgeous but not afraid to completely make a fool of herself when she starts freaking out about every little thing.
Breckin Meyer, who doesn’t get nearly enough work, slips naturally and easily into the shoes of a guy who loves his big brother no matter how hard Connor tries to convince the rest of the world he’s a one-note jerk.
And of course there’s stunning Emma Stone, one of my favorite new actresses, who plays the hopelessly nerdy first ghost and steals every scene she’s in.
Nothing here is particularly original, and it’s pretty predictable, but there are plenty of laughs to be had.
And the cast is really good.
And sweet, sweet Jenny Garner’s in it.