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Warmed-over Dickens tale falls flat
Not even good looks save this rom-com
Matthew McConaughey, left, and Jennifer Garner star in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” a pointless, flawed adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’
Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner
Rated: PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference
Running time: 100 minutes
Bottom line: Even worse than it looks

“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” marks a great departure for Matthew McConaughey as an actor: he only takes his shirt off once in this movie.

If you’re a fan of McConaughey or of romantic comedies (or of laughing), that’s just one of many, many reasons to avoid this movie.

McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a high-fashion photographer who seduces every woman he meets with the compulsion of a sex addict. He’s a wolf in McConaughey clothing, and his career provides him an unlimited supply of gorgeous, ditzy prey. The women all inexplicably fall for his twitch-inducing lines. The only hold-outs are his secretary (Noureen DeWulf) and his friend since childhood — and obvious true love — Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner).

Connor returns to the family estate to attend his brother’s wedding, where he encounters Jenny and some ghosts. First, the ghost of his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the man who nurtured Connor into a hounddog, shows up and ... yawn ... I’m sorry, what was I writing?

There’s no use spelling out the story any more clearly than the title does. If you know “A Christmas Carol,” you already know how everything will play out in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.” There are no surprises. Not a single attempt to steer the story in an unexpected direction.

The only thing of note is that a handful of capable actors (Douglas, Garner, DeWulf, Emma Stone, Anne Archer) are stuck in a McConaughey vehicle so tired it likely won’t even appeal to those who fawn over the actor’s looks.

Dickens’ original Ebenezer Scrooge chooses, as a young man, the pursuit of wealth over the pursuit of true happiness. His flaw is greed, and it’s tragic because this is obviously a man with things to offer the world. So when the story is told well, we care about the Scrooge character despite his abrasive demeanor and immorality.

But what propels Connor, our Ebenezer stand-in, into a life spent pursuing earthly delights rather than true happiness? At a junior high school dance, he misses a chance to ask Jenny to dance, so she dances with another boy. That’s right, this movie is built entirely around a junior high school boy’s bruised ego.

“Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” is a meaningless morality tale that attempts to teach a lesson the audience already knows. Connor is a superficial jackass, pure and simple. He is one of the most loathsome lead characters we’ve seen in a movie in quite some time.

I can only hope female viewers will see this movie for the insult that it is. All the women in this movie are idiots of one kind or another.

Sure, Jenny refuses to fall for Connor’s lines, but she continues to pine for him her entire life, beyond all common sense or self-respect.

Jenny, and all the others characters for that matter, would be better off without Connor, and the world would be better off without this movie.

Dickens’ classic tale has been redone so many times it’s practically its own genre, and the incarnations of the story keep getting worse. Between “An American Carol” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” the Dickens Society might be motivated to picket or hire lawyers the next time a studio announces plans for another rehash of the book. They would certainly be justified.

Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.