© 2008 Ray Wong
Treasure hunt films seem to be a rage right now, especially after the success of the National Treasure series. Now add a romantic comedy re-teaming Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, and we have a cocktail mix of flavors. But is it any good?
Benjamin Finnegan (Matthew McConaughey) is a penniless treasure hunter on the verge of discovering the legendary "Queen's Dowry" -- 40 chests of gemstones, pearls, and gold lost at sea in 1715. His personal, however, is a mess: his wife, Tess (Kate Hudson), is divorcing him, and he owes gangsta-rapper Bigg Buny (Kevin Hart) a lot of money. Driven by a recent find, Ben is determined to find a new sponsor to back his expedition. He finds his target in bored tycoon Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland).
The problem is, Tess works on Honeycutt's yacht as a stewardess. When Tess finds out about Ben's scheme, she's at once intrigued and furious. Not to mention she finds herself feeling jealous when Ben blatantly flirts with Nigel's Paris Hilton-like daughter, Gemma (Alexis Dziena). Somehow they convince Nigel to sponsor their treasure hunt. But when Bigg Bunny finds out what they're up to, they engage in a vicious race to claim the discovery of the Queen's Dowry.
Matthew McConnaughey (We Are Marshall) is right in his element playing another hipster buffoon with a hard body and athletic skills to spare. Handsome, golden and muscled, McConaughey has the ability to engage us either in heart-felt dramas such as We Are Marshall or a goofball comedy such as Fool's Gold. Here, he's all charm, good looks, and zaniness. Kate Hudson (You, Me and Dupree) plays it smart (but cute) as the distraught ex-wife with a brain who still holds a torch to the love of her life. It's a standard role for Hudson, who does it very well. The actors do share immense chemistry together, as they proved in the hit How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Donald Sutherland (Reign Over Me) is very likable as the affable millionaire who has nothing to do but to frown over his celebutante daughter, played zealously by Alexis Dziena (Havoc). They make one of the most unlikely but interesting father-daughter pair. Ewen Bremner (Death at a Funeral) has a small and throwaway part as Ben's Ukrainian partner. Ray Winstone (Beowulf) has fun playing Ben's ex-mentor and rival Moe, and Kevin Hart (Extreme Movie) takes on the Cuba Gooding Jr. school of acting, giving us an over the top performance as the obligatory villain.
Written by John Claflin (Anacondas 2), Daniel Zelman (Anacondas 2) and Andy Tennant (Ever After), the script is as scatter-brained as the characters. It has an interesting high-concept premise, but the execution is full of cliches and the plot is convoluted. It's as if the writers had decided to throw as many things as possible into the pot and see what cooks. It can't decide whether it should be an action-adventure or a romantic comedy, and the story suffers because of this lack of focus.
At times, I feel lost and have no idea where the plot is heading. There's also a long exposition telling us the important story behind the Queen's Dowry, but it's so confusing that my brain just turns to Jello (big mistake, since it has a lot to do with the plot). The dialogue, of course, is cheesy but I expected that. Still, the scatter-brained script leaves me confused and irritated.
It doesn't help that director Tennant (Hitch) seems to have given up trying to make this film coherent. It jumps from one subplot to another and the tone or style seem contradictory. Granted, the actors have great chemistry together, but there's really not much character development. And that's okay, if the plot holds our interest. It does have everything: romance, adventure, mystery, comedy, action... but Romancing the Stone it isn't. While the cinematography is gorgeous (how can you mess it up with the beautiful Caribbean locales?), the direction and editing are choppy, and the pacing is off: it moves too fast at times and too slow at others.
With its likable stars and beautiful locales, Fool's Gold is a marginally entertaining adventure that may appeal to the younger crowd who doesn't like to use their brains at the movies. Otherwise, the film is all plastic, hardly golden at all.
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Alexis Dziena, Ewen Bremner, Ray Winstone, Kevin Hart
Director: Andy Tennant
Writers: John Claflin, Daniel Zelman, Andy Tennant
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence, some sexual content, brief nudity, and language
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 6.1 out of 10