A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this predictable romantic comedy about a shameless womanizer who ultimately sees the error of his ways has plenty of innuendo and discussion about sex, though there's more talk than action. Expect to see deep kissing, some groping, and a clothed man being straddled by a scantily clad woman while they make out. There's also some swearing ("bitch," "damn," etc.) and drinking, including a scene in which an uncle buys his eighth-grade nephew a drink in a bar.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Celebrity photographer Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) is so slick that he might as well be an oil tanker. He beds women as often as he photographs them, and he never lets himself get involved. Not exactly the kind of guy you'd want to have as your best man, but that's his role at his brother's (Breckin Meyer) upcoming wedding. Connor starts the evening off by sparring with ex-girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Garner), fondling the mother of the bride (Anne Archer), telling his brother he can still back out, and even divulging a huge secret that hurts the bride (Lacey Chabert). No wonder he starts seeing a steady stream of ghosts (a la A Christmas Carol), led by his dead uncle (Michael Douglas), who, when he was alive, taught Connor everything he knew about avoiding commitment.
Is it any good?
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST hews close to the romantic comedy "rules" -- you know where it's going to end within the first half hour. Which isn't to say the film's a fright. The premise may be tired, the jokes stale, and the script trite ("Pain beats regret every day of the week, and twice on Sunday," for example), but it's actually more amusing than expected thanks to two critical casting choices. First, there's Garner: Quick with verbal volleys and arch reaction shots, she grounds the movie in girl-next-door goodness. The fact that someone like her would like someone like McConaughey's Connor makes us want to believe in what romcoms sell -- love that makes no sense but works anyway. Then there's Douglas, who appears to be channeling both Hugh Hefner and Jack Nicholson. This is the Douglas we adored in Wonder Boys -- no spit-shine, no polish, just rough edges with a hint of sleaze. (Who knew playing sordid could be so fun?)
McConaughey is also relatively solid, but Garner and the supporting characters outshine him, especially Chabert, as a well-meaning woman on the verge of becoming Bridezilla, and Meyer, who adds heart to a frothy script. It's a little off putting to see A Christmas Carol "reimagined" in this manner, but we won't be a Scrooge and say it's all for naught. Truth is, there are enough laughs to entertain, if not enthrall.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's messages about relationships and sex. Why is Connor's behavior so bad? Why do you think he turned out the way he did? And why does Jenny still have feelings for him, considering how he treated her?
How is this movie similar to and different from other romantic comedies?
- In theaters: May 1, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: September 22, 2009
- Cast: Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Garner, Matthew McConaughey
- Director: Mark Waters
- Studio: New Line
- Genre: Romance
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
For kids who love romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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