Viewers of ‘Ghosts’ are sure to feel Scrooged

When a Christmas-season movie like "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" is released in the midst of a heat wave, you know something's gone seriously wrong.

Hard to say what that something was, for "Ghosts" is a rom-com updating of "A Christmas Carol," but it's obvious that not much has gone right.

Start with casting - Matthew McConaughey plays Connor Mead, a celebrated photographer and womanizer who arrives in snowy New England to attend the wedding of his younger brother (Breckin Meyer). Mead is an aggressively single bachelor who treats women like crap, and immediately tries to convince his brother to cancel. At the rehearsal dinner, a drunken Mead delivers a jaw-dropping anti-marriage screed.

This is an act of extreme boorishness, and the genial McConaughey was no doubt brought in to take the edge off this character, but the mix is all wrong - what you get is a mushy compromise of the character's nastiness and the actor's genial nature. Made me unexpectedly homesick for "Fool's Gold."

In any case, Mead's attitudes are fated to change, and on wedding's eve he's visited by three ghosts - actually four. The first is played by Michael Douglas (channeling Robert Evans), Connor's Hefner-like uncle, the man who taught Connor to be a heartless skirt-chaser.

He tells Connor he's to be visited by three spirits, who in aggregate force Mead to revisit every woman he's ever seduced - there are thousands, we meet most of them, and about two of the encounters are funny.

Mead is meant to regret his plundering, but, in his defense, he's famously promiscuous, he advertises himself as such and he limits his encounters to one-night stands with women who are eager to accept him on those terms.

And that's part of the problem with "Ghosts." It's meant to be a women's movie, but almost every female on view is slutty, ditzy, shallow - eager to conform to Mead's low opinion of them (you know it's only a matter of time before the bride goes bridezilla).

The one exception is his childhood sweetheart (she grows up to be Jennifer Garner), a bridesmaid whom Connor learns is the one that got away. He must reform to see that she doesn't get away again.

Thus is Scrooge softened once more.

As for who gets the goose, it's anyone who pays $10 to see it.


Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Directed by Mark Waters. With Michael Douglas, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Robert Forster, Anne Archer, Emma Stone, Lacey Chabert. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 40 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference).