In these post-McConnaissance days, in a world where Matthew McConaughey is a (well-deserved) Oscar winner, it’s hard to remember that he was once known as the lead of a series of light-to-weightless romantic comedies. But so it is, and as he leaves those days behind and enters his new phase as the go-to guy for surprising indies, heavyweight dramas and barnstorming TV, we have decided to wrap up the old version with a definitive ranking of his rom-com era, from worst to best. Read on and see if you agree - and consider doing it while listening to the dulcet tones of the man himself on our recent podcast interview...
Imagine A Christmas Carol that features neither Christmas nor carols, and preaches the virtues of monogamy rather than charity, and you pretty much have this film. A womaniser (McConaughey) who’s a lot less charming than his usual characters screws up his brother’s rehearsal dinner and has a visit from the ghost of the uncle who taught him his slutty ways. That’s followed by the shades of three women who teach him the error of his ways, so that he finally gets together with childhood sweetheart Jenny (Jennifer Garner) and patches up his brother’s wedding.
It all poses an interesting philosophical conundrum: how can these girlfriends be ghosts if they are alive? One of them at least is present at the wedding and not obviously comatose or eligible for any sort of out-of-body experience, what with being visibly in her body. So is this some sort of spectral body-snatching affair? Are actual spirits squatting in the personalities of these women in order to assist some bloke who treated said women badly? Way to make women subservient to your asshat central character!
Alternatively, is McConaughey imagining the whole thing in some sort of schizoid break? Then why does he imagine his eldery, dead uncle hitting on the phantasm of his 16 year-old ex-girlfriend? That is one sick puppy. And does someone who has borderline lost it really deserve to end up with lovely Jennifer Garner? We’re not sure they have thought this through.
*In short:* dead on arrival.
In the same way that Hepburn and Tracy used to re-team in new characters and new situations, How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days stars Kate Hudson and McConaughey reunited for this messy treasure search. There are hints here that someone was going for a Romancing The Stone vibe, but somehow it kept falling just out of reach – much like everyone’s clothing, apparently.
The plot sees McConaughey’s treasure hunter, Finn, diving about the Caribbean in an obsessive hunt for Spanish galleon the Aurelia, lost centuries before. His quest has led to the breakdown of his marriage to Tess (Hudson), and she’s hared off to take a job as steward to a millionaire’s yacht. Finn turns up to enlist the help of both when he finds a new clue to the treasure, and off they go, pursued by a bear Ray Winstone and his band of rival treasure hunters, and gangster Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart), a horrendously named and apparently illiterate ne’er-do-well.
Inevitably, thanks to a combination of near-death experiences, repeated kidnapping attempts (directed at Tess, obviously) and a new perspective on life, these two stunningly generic characters – really, there’s nothing either McConaughey or Hudson can do with them – rekindle their romance. They find the treasure but decide, like Indiana Jones, that it belongs in a museum. Oh, and she turns out to be pregnant so viewers can rest assured that they really are going to live happily and scantily-clad ever after.
*In short:* Real gold - but sought by fools.
This time, McConaughey was paired with Sarah Jessica Parker, still basking in a post-Sex And The City glow that was yet to be blighted by the Sex And The City movies. The problem here isn’t either of them, particularly: they’re both fine. It’s the ridiculous, overly-familiar rom-com trope wherein one party (Parker) is hiding a Major Secret that Cuts To The Root Of The Whole Relationship. You see, she’s been hired by his character’s parents to persuade their son to fall for her and get him to move out of the parental home.
Now these parents called their son Tripp, so one might feel that they deserve all they get, and of course it emerges that Tripp has suffered A Great Tragedy in his past that explains his current parental dependence (he couldn’t possibly just be living at home like some loser). Still, they want him out now, and Parker’s Paula seems like the solution. The only problem is that she falls for him (obvs), posing a dilemma for the parents, for Paula and – when he finds out – for Holiday Tripp.
Still, they work it all out thanks to a bogus kidnapping and lashings of nonsense. Doesn’t anyone in any of these films ever have a vaguely realistic interaction with another human being?
In short: It launches, but it flies like the Spruce Goose.
This has moments of ludicrousness – the dustbin rescue meet-cute, the coincidences, the attempted arranged marriage – but it has fewer of them than many of the other contenders here. It also has characters that bear at least a passing resemblance to actual people, from Jennifer Lopez’s only-faintly-saintly wedding planner (controlling, lonely, basically nice) to McConaughey’s paediatrician (impulsive, uncertain, basically nice) to his fiancée, Bridget Wilson-Sampras’ Fran Donolly (high-powered, high-maintenance, basically nice).
So the plot: wedding planner Mary meets doctor Steve when her high-heel gets caught in a drain cover and she is nearly killed by a runaway bin while she tries to save it. They go out for a celebratory movie, dance, nearly kiss and all seems rosy – until it turns out he’s the groom in the wedding of the year that she’s organising. The cad! Only he wasn’t quite a cheater, and maybe the wedding of the year isn’t so perfect after all (it isn’t). It takes them a while, but basically they figure it out.
This is less of a two-hander than some of the others here – McConaughey’s in a slightly smaller role – and J.Lo gets an awful lot of time to mope about tragically, but at least it seems like they might inhabit the same planet as the rest of us, rather than a totally different one where none of the usual rules of logic apply.
In short: Give it a chance, and we guarantee you’ll like it more than you like J.Lo.
This is maybe the most high-concept premise ever, making Snakes On A Plane look like gritty realism. A journalist (Kate Hudson) is writing the titular article and plans to do everything possible to alienate any man who’ll date her, and to lose him within ten days, in order to write a breezy magazine article on the mistakes some women make. A caddish advertising exec (guess who) places a bet with colleagues that he can date the same girl for ten days. Both have their future careers riding on the outcome: she wants to write Pulitzer-bothering pieces on women in developing countries; he wants a big diamond account. What are the chances? Even allowing for the meddling of his rivals to put it all together, this seems ludicrous.
Anyway, they meet, they hit it off (in a scene that’s actually rather witty) but she has to resort to ever-more ridiculous schemes to get rid of him as he reacts with endless fonts of forced patience. Despite it all, they fall in love because they’re the people on the poster and where would we be otherwise?
Only when they both learn the truth, rather than going, “Busted! So what do we do now? Give it a proper go?” they both freak out, have a huge fight and she nearly gets arrested for dramatically stomping out of his diamond party wearing a necklace worth the budget of your average Oscar contender.
This one thrives on the chemistry between Hudson and McConaughey, and the fact that at least they’re both engaged in a ridiculous and unbelievable deception, so there’s some sort of nonsensical balance to it. They’re also both supernaturally adorable, which helps.
In short: Not nearly as divine as those yellow diamonds, but better than it has any right to be.