So here’s the pitch: imagine taking the premise of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and making it into a romantic comedy, casting Matthew McConaughey in the Scrooge role with Jennifer Garner as his love interest. (Well, actually, it was pitched with Ben Affleck as the leading man but wiser minds prevailed.)
Manhattan celebrity photographer Connor Mead (McConaughey) is a crass, egotistical womanizer with a wretched reputation. In an opening scene, he callously breaks up with three women on a computer-based conference-call, musing to a third woman, “Since when did casual sex become a crime?” Then he’s off to serve as Best Man as his younger brother Paul (Breckin Meyer) marries Sandra (Lacey Chabert) at their late uncle’s lavish Newport, Rhode Island, estate, where his childhood pal/former flame, Jenny Perotti (Garner), wary of his cynical, lothario game, threatens at the rehearsal dinner: “If you do anything to detract from this wedding, I will sneak into your room in the middle of the night and cut off your favorite appendage!”
Instead, Connor’s accosted by Dickens’ Marley character in the sprit form of his playboy Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), who warns him, “ Don’t waste your life the way I did…Tonight, you’re going to be visited by three ghosts.”
Escorted by 16 year-old Allison (“Superbad’s” Emma Stone), fresh from the memory of a disastrous junior high-school dance, Connor revisits the many women he has wronged from his past, present and potentially lonely future, learning more about himself than he ever wanted to know and, predictably, getting his comeuppance.
Christa B. Allen, who plays the teenage version of Jenny, also played Garner’s younger self in “13 Going on 30” (2004). Rounding out the cast are Robert Forster and Anne Archer as Sandra’s (divorced) parents.
Scripted by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (“Four Christmases”) and directed by Mark Waters (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”), it’s a frothy, formulaic frolic. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” is an ephemeral 6, a ridiculously amusing ‘date movie’ that will evaporate before summer.