By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Charles Dickens is doing a sideways pirouette in his grave with the release of Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, a romantic comedy — allegedly on both counts — based on his classic novel, A Christmas Carol.
You know the routine. A miser is visited by three spirits revealing his bleak past, present and future unless he changes his ways. This time, the guy is stingy with love, not money, and the supernatural flashbacks reveal the errors of his oversexed ways.
But there's a fourth specter haunting this movie: the ghost of Matthew McConaughey flops past (Fool's Gold, Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner and any other movie more convinced of McConaughey's appeal than the audience was).
At least Ghosts of Girlfriends Past has the good sense to cast this vapid hunk as a complete tool. In that regard, Mark Waters' movie almost seems like a documentary.
McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a fabulously successful fashion photographer spending more energy laying down models than setting up shots. Connor brazenly protests his brother (Breckin Meyer) getting married although the wedding will allow a few more sexual conquests as best man. Maybe he'll again snuggle up to Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner), the childhood crush who got away.
Too many shots of Scotch, and Connor meets the ghosts of his sexist mentor, Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas, who's having fun), then past, present and future girlfriends. Each flashback/forward brings Connor closer to the realization that women deserve true love and respect — after all leering and suggestive comments about them are exhausted.
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past isn't as lousy as I expected, given the hoary premise, its whorish twist and a distaste for McConaughey's "acting" style, which is all preening and purring interrupted by widened eyes that just look deader for doing it. Neither is the movie as funny as I'd prefer, no matter who's starring. It's not the best or worst of times — sorry, Charlie D. — to be spent in a theater, but it'll be better on DVD.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.