Matthew McConaughey is a chick flick man with no business being a chick flick man. The ratio of how dreamy he's being sold as to how dreamy he actually is can't be solved on a calculator without generating a division by zero error.
This is what the Internet says will happen.
I am not a chick flick watcher by any means but I do respect that as a genre, the romantic comedy has specific requirements and measures of quality, allowing individual films to run the gamut from abysmal abominations of overwrought, formulaic shit to very decently produced packages of overwrought, formulaic shit. Some chick flicks are qualitatively better than others, just like some attacks of food poisoning are better than others.
Left: Two Weeks Notice. Right: Gigli.
The most crucial contributor to romantic comedy quality? Story.
Got you there! But seriously, it's the guy. The male love interest must be dreamy. "Dreamy" is an objective term based on a 102-point evaluation of physical features and electrode measurements of key smile muscles. George Clooney works. Or Jude Law. Or Hugh Grant. Or Richard Gere, why not? Or that awful man from Grey's Anatomy. If you are a clever reader, you might sense I don't necessarily like all those guys, and you're right. But they have nice faces and movie star charm, so if someone wants them for a chick flick, it makes sense.
Then there's Matthew McConaughey.
#1. Matthew McConaughey Looks Like That
He has always looked somewhat like that. If anything, the stupid beard emphasizes his essential look rather than changing it.
However, that's obviously not what the casting directors used in choosing him as a romantic lead, so fine, here's him with his signature look.
I'm not sure if he has a Zoolander-style name for that look but I imagine it would be called the "Punch Magnet." I assume this is the trademarked charming smile that he uses to melt ladies' hearts and tickle the money out of their wallets at the box office. This makes no sense.
As far as corner-of-the-mouth smiles go, there's one that says, "I'm a loveable rogue and you just never know what I might do next!" and there is one that says, "I guess you saw through my tough outer shell to the sensitive guy deep down." He doesn't do either of those. What we have here is the "I've got a bridge I want to sell you" smile. Or in the context of his movies, "I'm going to tell you a bunch of lies so I can have sex with you."
"Like new. Hardly been driven. Have sex with me."
Some people think women like being lied to and mistreated by "alpha male" types, but these are generally people who study women only by reading books and being rejected. A lot of women enjoy some level of mischief and roguishness in a man, but not the level that would ditch them without a callback number and leave gifts such as a pregnancy, an STD or the privilege of being an entry in a book of "conquests." The thought of that is not usually appealing to a woman when being picked up on, because I guess women are just crazy.
Anyway, McConaughey might not be that kind of guy, but his face thinks he is. And that kind of matters for an actor.
But enough about his smarmy smile and his nasty hair and his stupid beard. Let's not get hung up on the fact that the man looks like he's draped a permed bird's nest over his head that has long been abandoned by its bird family and is now receding day by day under the wear of the elements. Dwelling on that is petty. Let's move on to weightier issues.
#2. They Manipulated Us Into Liking Him
"Us" meaning whoever is paying into the $100 million box office take for his movies, not literally us. Anyway, those poor bastards probably wouldn't even like him if they hadn't been conned into it.
The conspiracy started with McConaughey's breakthrough role, in the 1996 John Grisham adaptation A Time To Kill, a riveting sci-fi thriller about a futuristic society where all citizens can kill anyone they want between 2 and 4pm every day except holidays.
I assume. I didn't watch it. This was due to no lack of effort on Joel Schumacher's part though.
When you're putting out a film starring a relative unknown, it's a risk. You can either go with that risk and hope the movie will succeed on its own merits, or if you are director Joel Schumacher, you forcibly make this relative unknown into a star before the movie even comes out. He wined and dined influential movie media types left and right until he left his lip prints on every ass in Hollywood. The movie was a success and McConaughey was certified as an official Hollywood hunk, leading Schumacher to believe he could sell the public on anything.
He was wrong.
Anyway, in McConaughey's case, the movie-going public swallowed it hook, line, sinker. Women bought that he was attractive. Men didn't think he was so great and what was the big deal about him anyway, my pecs would totally look like that if I had time to go to the gym. Which essentially validated him as equivalent to Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or what have you.
And many people who wouldn't believe someone was sexy just because Joel Schumacher said so, apparently would if celebrity magazines said so. The magazines set to work and hyped him to an unwarranted level of fame where he would probably come to mind if you had to think of 10 or 15 male movie stars off the top of your head who would show up to a photo shoot if you called them, which I believe is how People Magazine came up with its 2005 Sexiest Men Alive list.
Seriously, Vince Vaughn and Ian McShane? I can think of many positive adjectives for Ian McShane but I don't think "sexy" is one of them.
And I can't think of any positive adjectives for Vince Vaughn.
So if you're entertaining the possibility that all this McConaughey promotion was just well-deserved appreciation of a genuine talent, try to remember these people immediately followed up their anointing of him with attempts to promote Batman and Robin and Vince Vaughn.
#3. Gratuitous Shirtlessness
If you were to ask the average McConaughey fan (and I'm using the loosest definition of the word fan, as in "someone who's watched him in enough movies to know what he does in them") to describe him in one word, that word would probably be "shirtless".
It's become so expected that he take his shirt off in every movie that some movies have to come up with the strangest excuses. In romantic comedies, he takes his shirt off to seduce women, which would be really weird in real life but sure, whatever, that's the formula. In EDtv, he takes off his shirt to brush his teeth. In Reign of Fire, he takes off his shirt before leaping into a dragon's mouth to be eaten, presumably because he is a really considerate meal.
I would have dropped the axe first in that case, but whatever, I guess that character is considerate, not bright.
They even managed to get his shirt off in Frailty, a taut psychological thriller exploring the depths of human nature, where he essentially played a narrator telling the whole story in childhood flashbacks at a police station. Despite the challenge, they found one scene where he was home alone, and had him tear that nasty old shirt off so he could have a phone conversation. If that wasn't enough, they had the kid that played him in the flashbacks take his shirt off too.
Now, a man's fine pecs are a nice thing to look at, but if you're going to imply your chest is so great that you need to lose your shirt in every movie and every photo taken of you, it had better be an exceptional chest, with an actual Michelangelo fresco across it or maybe at least a built-in HD screen or something else really cool. It is really anticlimactic when he pulls it off and all you see is that he works out sometimes. Big whoop.
There's a misconception that women will go to the theater just to see his shirt off, which can turn out to be a costly mistake. As Exhibit A, I present Surfer, Dude, a film apparently as dumb as it sounds, which only got distribution in 69 theaters because no one wanted to touch that piece of shit even though his shirt was off the entire movie. Surfer, Dude seemed like nothing more than a really obvious ploy based on how photos that happened to "catch him" out "surfing" seem to circulate really well on the Web. I admit women can be dumb about these things (see aforementioned photos). But not that dumb.
Meanwhile, Korean recording sensation Rain shows how a pro does chest overexposure: in a hilariously overdramatic way that provides both ironic and unironic entertainment to all. He tears off shirts so frequently in concerts that he has a vast supply of identical shirts with convenient pre-tears in the collar, which he rips off like he's unveiling Hyundai's next generation concept car at the Tokyo Motor Show. Plus, he actually has a nice face to go with it.
If you're going to keep taking your shirt off, you might as well pull out all the stops. Don't half-assedly pull this "oh my shirt fell off" casual shit, acting like it's so awesome it speaks for itself. Start by putting some Christmas lights around it or something and go from there.