Fool's Gold (2008) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language
Running time: 113 min.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Alexis Dziena, Ewen Bremmer, Ray Winstone, Kevin Hart, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Brian Hooks
Director: Andy Tennant
Screenplay: John Claflin, Daniel Zelman, Andy Tennant
Review published June 21, 2008
Pyrite Pirates would have been my choice of a title, but that probably would have gone over the heads of most audiences this targets. McConaughey Shirtless might be a better marketing title, as that about sums up the consensus positive opinion that the few people I've seen champion this movie deem worthy of commenting on. If I weren't straight, perhaps I'd have that extra facet to admire that would kick this waste of time to coming close to approaching watchable. Seeing Hudson (You Me and Dupree, The Skeleton Key) and McConaughey (We Are Marshall, Failure to Launch) reunite might have some thinking they will feel the chemistry all over again. After their previous collaboration, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, it's not a case of trying to rekindle the magic so much as, "If you don't succeed..."
After the less-than-stellar sun-sand-bikini thrillers Into the Blue (budget: $50 mil, domestic receipts: $18 mil) and After the Sunset (budget: $58 mil, domestic receipts: $28 mil), you'd think someone would quickly realize that these sorts of movies, as a rule, offer little to no entertainment value to anyone not on the set of the lush, luxurious locales. Surprise of surprises, it actually broke even, but in the process, whatever the value of pairing up these two actors in future releases has diminished to the point of irrelevancy.
McConaughey stars as man of high adventure, Benjamin FInnegan ("Finn" for short), who briefly celebrates the fact that he may have found the legendary Queen's dowry, a treasure from a sunken and lost 18th century Spanish galleon just off the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, Finn is in some serious debt to a gangsta rap artist, Bigg Bunny (Hart, Scary Movie 4), whose island is the location where Finn believes the booty lies, and he plans to use Finn's knowledge of buried treasure to pay himself back a hundred fold.
Finn's problems get worse when his wife becomes his ex, filing and winning a divorce case that leaves her with everything. Nevertheless, she has the same lust for adventure that Finn does, so when he mentions his findings, she puts bygones aside for the chance to make history. However, without a boat (Finn just destroyed it) and with no resources, they end up finagling their way into convincing Tess's megabucks boss (Sutherland, Reign Over Me) to use his yacht to find the lost treasure. However, too many cooks might spoil this broth, as Finn's former mentor, now rival, Moe Fitch (Winstone, Beowulf) enters the scene looking for the same thing, and Bigg Bunny catches wind, but isn't content to settle for just a piece of the action.
There would be potential here to deliver a fun adventure with a bantering couple searching for treasure, perhaps in the mold of Romancing the Stone, but without laughs, thrills, or good romance, Fool's Gold ends up living up to its name by swindling audiences seeking all of the above out of their money for a worthless copycat. Other than the aforementioned physique of McConaughey, the only assets to the film lie in the realm of the visual, with stunning cinematography, both on land and underwater, and good use of the gorgeous locales (Australia substitutes for the Caribbean).
The downsides are many, starting with the overly familiar search for treasure that never, not even once, captures that sense of mystery and daring to get us even remotely riveted as to whether what they're looking for is ever found. At nearly two hours in length, the experience is drawn out to proportions that will make most viewers restless, especially when McConaughey goes into quite verbose history lessons to explain the origin and clues regarding the treasure and its whereabouts. In a film that has so much expository information, the opening text that tells us everything he explains later only serves to make these speeches agonizing. An adventure with so many dead spots leaves this one "dead in the water" from the get-go.
Too violent for a romantic comedy, genre director Andy Tennant (Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama) can't manage to deliver anything worthwhile in the action or adventure department. Banal arguments substitute for romance, while his idea of action is to up the noise factor with each increasing plot twist. Hudson and McConaughey made an unimpressive combo the first time out, and have managed to deliver yet another reason why marketing reports alone shouldn't be the foundation to making a movie. They've fooled you once, so shame on them; if they've fooled you twice, the shame you feel will be the only emotion Fool's Gold manages to generate for its duration.
©2008 Vince Leo