What now?” sighs Connor Mead (Matthew McConaughey) to the bubbly teenage ghost (Emma Stone) whisking him back through his early life as a serial seducer.
“Now,” she replies, “we’re going to watch a romantic montage to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’!” Such smart lines elevate a movie that could otherwise have been a pedestrian reworking of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol tailored to its leading man’s rakish persona.
That and Michael Douglas, who steals every scene he’s in as the Hefner-esque playboy who first taught McConaughey’s fashion photographer-in-waiting how to love ’em and leave ’em. (“Did you know he invented the word MILF?” says his protégé admiringly.)
Douglas’ late Uncle Wayne is one of several spectral apparitions that appear to Connor on the eve of his younger brother’s nuptials to tell him what a callow, shallow moron he truly is. (Having watched him dump three girlfriends simultaneously on conference call in front of his latest sexual conquest, this comes as no surprise to us.)
The real Ghost of Kisses Past, though, is Jennifer Garner’s Jenny, the childhood sweetheart whose heart he broke during a long-haired phase in the 1990s.
Will McConaughey wake up to himself in time to realise she’s the girl of his dreams? Not without various supernatural hijinks and some awkward episodes involving his future sister-in-law (Mean Girls’ Lacey Chabert), her voluptuous mom (Anne Archer) and a trashed wedding cake.
“Love is magical comfort food for the weak and uneducated!” declares Connor in one of his more obnoxious moments.
That we eventually come to warm to him is less down to Matthew’s smug, preening turn than to Jen’s dignified, rounded performance and the fact that, however much of a pillock he is, he’ll never be as big of a cock as Douglas’s sleazy lounge lizard with his Robert Evans shades and cherished ‘Stabbin’ Wagon’.
“I was always attracted to assholes!” says Jennifer Garner in a film that both celebrates and slates its Neanderthal hero. As much as you’d love to hate it, this jaunty supernatural romcom remains a polished, amusing, surprisingly sweet diversion.