This gets off to a bit of slow start but you stick with it, because it does, after all, star Matthew McConaughey. He plays Connor Mead, a smooth, handsome jerk who has made an art of the one-night stand - to the extent that in the course of the first few scenes he breaks up with three girls at once on a conference call. He learned it all from his womanising Uncle Wayne, who has since passed away. He returns to Uncle Wayne's mansion for the weekend to celebrate his brother's wedding, having already slept with three of the four bridesmaids, and tries to convince his brother not to get married by bribing him with his Jaguar. There, he runs into childhood sweetheart/maid of honour, Jenny Perotti, played by Jennifer Garner. At the rehearsal dinner, he makes a speech condemning the institution of marriage - he is the marriage Scrooge in this A Christmas Carol metaphor. He makes a speech condemning the institution of marriage - he is the marriage Scrooge in this A Christmas Carol metaphor.

The story picks up when the ghost of Uncle Wayne appears, a smarmy, stuck in the '70s kind of guy, played by Michael Douglas. He is the Jacob Marley of the story. He tells Connor that during the course of one night, he will be visited by three ghosts, who will help him see the error of his ways. Just when Connor is convinced that Uncle Wayne was a hallucination, Allison Vandermeersh, Connor's first sex partner, an apparition from the year 1986, appears in his bed. She is the ghost of girlfriend past, come to escort him through his many former exploits. The first of those is the 10-year-old Jenny, with whom he shared his innocent first kiss. Allison takes him through middle school, where Jenny unwittingly breaks his heart. At that tender age, his Uncle begins Connor's private education and teaches him how never to be hurt by a woman again. Throughout the ensuing years, Connor keeps blowing his chance to be happy with Jenny - one, because she doesn't buy his act, and two, he just can't get himself to commit. As Connor, McConaughey is fine, he's convincing. But Garner, simultaneously feisty and grounded, has that ability to let emotion flicker across her face at a whim. It is that face that keeps us, and Connor, believing in Jenny.
However, it is Emma Stone's spunky, '80s teen energy as Allison that keeps this film from being your typical schmaltz-fest. Lacey Chabert, as Sandra, is the ultimate bridezilla, while also managing to remain sympathetic, and adds great comic relief throughout. The dry and witty Noureen DeWulf plays the ghost of girlfriend present, Connor's quirky assistant, Melanie. It is these supporting actresses who really make the movie: wacky, clever, excellent comic timing all three. It's not just shots of shirtless McConaughey that keep us watching. The sexy, ethereal ghost of girlfriend future finally shows us the tragic future Connor will face if he doesn't change his ways. It's pretty cliche, seeing that it is, after all, based on the most famous Dickens story of all time dressed up in modern clothes. Fortunately, some clever dialogue and good performances save the over-worked plot, and we come away more satisfied than we expected to be when the movie began.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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