DVD & Film: ‘Ghosts of Girlfriends Past’ & ‘Observe and Report’

by W. Andrew Powell

Lacey Chabert and Matthew McConaughey in Ghosts of Girlfriends PastComing out this week on DVD and Blu-ray, Matthew McConaughey plays a monumental jerk forced to change his ways in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and Seth Rogen stars as a security guard looking for a future in Observe and Report. Plus, a look at the dramedy Lymelife, and Shaun of the Dead arrives on Blu-ray.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Since appearing in Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey has had a remarkable career in Hollywood. At the same time, ask most film goers what they think of McConaughey, and the response seems to be pretty cut and dry; you either love him, or you despise him. In my own study of the matter, I found the word dreamy comes up a lot, although I think the word I’d use for him is a bit less complimentary.

In the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, McConaughey sets his sights far away from dreamy as he plays the despicable Connor, a womanizing photographer who picks up and dumps women before they’ve had a chance to get dressed. On the night before his brother is to be married, Connor goes too far in front of the guests though, nearly ruining the wedding and turning his friend Jenny, played by Jennifer Garner, against him.

That’s when Michael Douglas, as the ghost of Connor’s late Uncle Wayne, comes to the rescue to teach the dirtbag a thing or two. Following the plot of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Connor will be visited by the ghosts of girlfriends past, present, and future, to show him his last chance at a happily ever after.

With its heavily-borrowed plotline, which also rips on many of the I-love-my-best-friend films like My Best Friend’s Wedding, it’s hard to look at Ghosts of Girlfriends Past as anything except a commercial joke. It plays with satire frequently, making fun of the cliches of the genre, but when there is hardly a single likeable person in the film, it’s hard to care about the story or the characters. In particular, McConaughey is utterly vile, but the truth is that most of the other characters are too, and like him or not, McConaughey has also wandered into another derivative role.

Call me crazy, but I can stomach as much of that derivative storytelling as you want to pile on, but only if you’ve sold me on the characters. What’s sadder is that the cast is pretty good, I could even take McConaughey in some circumstances, but director Mark Waters has let them act like your worst nightmares – people you would normally avoid anywhere else.

The premise is definitely intriguing, but with all those nightmare attitudes, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was one of the hardest romantic movies I’ve had to force myself to watch this year.

Observe and Report
Earlier this year we met Paul Blart, a mall cop on a mission to save the day, and now we’re faced with Ronnie Barnhardt, the latest rent-a-cop to take on the terrors of the shopping centre.

Everyman Seth Rogen is our intrepid security guard, dealing with the everyday issues of the mall, but his heart lies with loftier aspirations of becoming a full-fledged police officer. All he has to do is prove himself enough to earn a spot with the local police academy, and when a flasher starts terrorizing his customers, Ronnie sees his chance to save the day. All the while he also dreams of picking up Brandi, played by Anna Faris, a mall employee who can barely put up with him.

Ronnie has a lot to prove, and at the same time he has to deal with police Detective Harrison, played by Ray Liotta.

Observe and Report was written and directed by Jody Hill, who made his mark with the comedy The Foot Fist Way, but in his latest he’s nothing more than another hack trying to put a darker spin on the average comedy.

While I’m no fan of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, that was easily the superior film, if for no other reason than the fact that the story was actually pretty funny at times. The films are otherwise like night and day, with Paul Blart acting like the family comedy, while Observe and Report is another wannabe-Judd Apatow project, but a film is either funny or it’s not, and Observe and Report is not funny.

Much like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, this film is also deeply flawed courtesy of Rogen’s unimaginative performance, which simply hovers around the same character we’ve seen in most of his other movies, like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Pineapple Express, and Knocked Up. That and the non-stop inane zingers that left me chuckling maybe five times throughout the entire film.

Also out this week…

Shaun of the Dead [Blu-ray]
Director Edgar Wright’s massive indie horror/comedy debuts on Blu-ray today, and I simply can’t recommend it enough to fans of the genre, or fans of Simon Pegg for that matter.

Released originally in 2004, this strikingly original film follows a group of friends trying to survive a zombie apocalypse in their small, British town, with Shaun (Pegg) leading the way. As they fight the undead though, the group also has to deal with all of their personal issues, which have built up over the course of their relationships.

Most importantly, what makes Shaun of the Dead truly unique is the fact that the cast and filmmakers achieved laughs, horror and drama in equal measure, making the film a lot of fun to watch, especially as Halloween approaches.

Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, and Kieran and Rory Culkin star in the dramedy Lymelife, about a family trying their luck at real estate development in the wilds of the suburbs. Set in 1979 on Long Island, New York, the film deals as much with family politics as it does with the politics of the world at the time, while Lyme disease also looms on their doorstep.

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