Movie News & Reviews

Clumsy "Fool's Gold" lacks sparkle

If I've learned anything from the recent spate of treasure-huntingmovies -- spate in this case meaning "two" -- it's that, once I find theclue 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 wastedthe last several years of my life chasing a fortune that possiblydoesn't exist, an obsession which, it seems, inevitably leads to mydivorce, but it would be a deadly irony if a treasure that's been lostfor hundreds of years were all of a sudden pursued by not just me butalso by my chief rival and everyone else looking to get rich quick allbecause I couldn't resist waving a torn map or rediscovered artifactunder 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 twoincompetent but lovable sidekicks, but I finally found it. Deep inColumbia 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 ofmy readers beats me to it.

Searching for clues for a sunken Spanish treasure off a Bahamanisland, a string of accidents blows up Matthew McConaughey's boat,leaving him in steep debt to gangster Kevin Hart and unable to followup on the clue he finds -- a piece of the lost Spanish vessel's uniqueplate -- as his ship is burning to the waterline.

Most inconveniently, this makes him late for his divorce hearing withKate Hudson, his soon-to-be-ex-wife who got sucked into his madventure years ago but now just finds him irresponsible and pathetic.The divorce goes through, but when Hudson retires to rich boss DonaldSutherland's yacht, she takes a closer look at McConaughey's sketch ofthe 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 thetreasure. Hart and McConaughey's old mentor are already after itthemselves, however, and the chase is on. The stakes? $500 millionin gold, gems, and jewelry.

Fool's Gold puts a lot of effort into both its emotional andcomedic sides, but when its cast of supporting characters sounds likethe punchline to a joke -- a Ukrainian, a gangster, two gays, anEnglishman and an air-headed rich girl walk into a boat -- the humor'susually too broad to really connect.

It's as if writers John Claflin and Daniel Zelman didn't have time tocome up with anything unique, so they substituted wacky accents and/orone big defining personality trait instead. McConaughey, who'ssupposed to be the embodiment of three-quarters-witted sex appeal,just seems like a guy who works out too much and happens to haveextraordinarily good luck. Director Andy Tennant handles thescrewball action sequences well, though, injecting a lot of life intothe constant disasters that should result in also-constant fatalitiesbut wind up as fun and ridiculous near-misses instead.

The movie fares better on its emotional sides. McConaughey andHudson's frustrated romance is a little pat, but once they startworking together to track down the treasure, you see what drew themtogether in the first place. Sutherland's attempts to bridge thedistance between himself and his oblivious daughter is too hamfistedto be kosher, yet it's both unconventional and sweet.

That scores it some points. Big red marks are doled out for the manylaugh-light stretches and the Bible-length scene about halfway throughwhen McConaughey and Hudson dump the treasure's entire backstory inSutherland's lap. National Treasure 2, for all its otherflaws, at least laid out its mystery's history in a fun,non-lecture-based format. The exposition here left me mildly confusedbut unconcerned that I was missing anything important. Partly myfault, I was up really late hitting myself in the head with a hammerthe night before, but the writers share some of the blame here.

Fool's Gold has a lot of this clumsy storytelling, from thethin characters to swallowing that expositional bowling ball to thelong, 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 toget the rest of itself there.

Grade: C+

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