If I've learned anything from the recent spate of treasure-hunting movies -- spate in this case meaning "two" -- it's that, once I find the clue that puts me hot on its trail, I need to keep my damn mouth shut.
I might feel like I have something to prove, given that I've wasted the last several years of my life chasing a fortune that possibly doesn't exist, an obsession which, it seems, inevitably leads to my divorce, but it would be a deadly irony if a treasure that's been lost for hundreds of years were all of a sudden pursued by not just me but also by my chief rival and everyone else looking to get rich quick all because I couldn't resist waving a torn map or rediscovered artifact under their noses to show them I'm not so crazy after all.
Because I'm not crazy. It took me nine years, three ex-wives, and two incompetent but lovable sidekicks, but I finally found it. Deep in Columbia Park, hidden within the big toe of the statue of Gerald Ford, the clue that will -- oh hell, did Fool's Gold teach me nothing? Well, later, chumps, I've got a helicopter to catch before either of my readers beats me to it.
Searching for clues for a sunken Spanish treasure off a Bahaman island, a string of accidents blows up Matthew McConaughey's boat, leaving him in steep debt to gangster Kevin Hart and unable to follow up on the clue he finds -- a piece of the lost Spanish vessel's unique plate -- as his ship is burning to the waterline.
Most inconveniently, this makes him late for his divorce hearing with Kate Hudson, his soon-to-be-ex-wife who got sucked into his mad venture years ago but now just finds him irresponsible and pathetic. The divorce goes through, but when Hudson retires to rich boss Donald Sutherland's yacht, she takes a closer look at McConaughey's sketch of the plate and sees he might actually be on to something.
Looking to give ditzy daughter Alexis Dziena something to do, Sutherland agrees to use his boat to help them try to hunt down the treasure. Hart and McConaughey's old mentor are already after it themselves, however, and the chase is on. The stakes? $500 million in gold, gems, and jewelry.
Fool's Gold puts a lot of effort into both its emotional and comedic sides, but when its cast of supporting characters sounds like the punchline to a joke -- a Ukrainian, a gangster, two gays, an Englishman and an air-headed rich girl walk into a boat -- the humor's usually too broad to really connect.
It's as if writers John Claflin and Daniel Zelman didn't have time to come up with anything unique, so they substituted wacky accents and/or one big defining personality trait instead. McConaughey, who's supposed to be the embodiment of three-quarters-witted sex appeal, just seems like a guy who works out too much and happens to have extraordinarily good luck. Director Andy Tennant handles the screwball action sequences well, though, injecting a lot of life into the constant disasters that should result in also-constant fatalities but wind up as fun and ridiculous near-misses instead.
The movie fares better on its emotional sides. McConaughey and Hudson's frustrated romance is a little pat, but once they start working together to track down the treasure, you see what drew them together in the first place. Sutherland's attempts to bridge the distance between himself and his oblivious daughter is too hamfisted to be kosher, yet it's both unconventional and sweet.
That scores it some points. Big red marks are doled out for the many laugh-light stretches and the Bible-length scene about halfway through when McConaughey and Hudson dump the treasure's entire backstory in Sutherland's lap. National Treasure 2, for all its other flaws, at least laid out its mystery's history in a fun, non-lecture-based format. The exposition here left me mildly confused but unconcerned that I was missing anything important. Partly my fault, I was up really late hitting myself in the head with a hammer the night before, but the writers share some of the blame here.
Fool's Gold has a lot of this clumsy storytelling, from the thin characters to swallowing that expositional bowling ball to the long, long time it takes to get around to the actual treasure hunting.
Its heart is in the right place, it just doesn't quite know how to get the rest of itself there.