Monday, February 18, 2008

Fool's Gold

FOOL'S GOLD (Andy Tennant, 2008)

Benjamin "Finn" Finnegan (Matthew McConaughey) is obsessed with finding the Queen's Dowry, a trove of jewels and coins claimed by the ocean in 1715. His pursuit of the Spanish treasure knows no bounds, even if it means being deeply indebted to gangsta rapper Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) and ruining his marriage to Tess (Kate Hudson). In FOOL'S GOLD the bumbling treasure hunter accidentally sinks his boat, but when the vessel hits the ocean floor, it uncovers a piece of a plate that suggests he may have located the long lost riches he's been seeking. Too bad for Finn that his financier wants him dead and has hired another crew to dig up the goods.

Tess would be Finn's one ally if she hadn't had enough of his adventure-seeking and irresponsibility. He can't even show up on time for their divorce hearing. (In his defense, he was preoccupied making sure that he wasn't going to join the treasure at the bottom of the Atlantic.) Tess had some good times with the hunky and dim Finn but views their marriage as a youthful mistake to be corrected. Although currently working as a steward on the yacht of Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), she has plans for returning home to Chicago, going back to school, and forgetting her former husband.

It follows that of all the boats in all the oceans Finn ends up aboard Nigel's in a bid to get the wealthy man to bankroll his search for the Queen's Dowry. Tess objects but Finn charms Nigel and his vapid socialite daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena) into going along with his scheme.

Like its namesake mineral, FOOL'S GOLD looks like one thing (a romantic comedy), turns out to be something else (an action-adventure), and has zero value. The film plays in the spirit of ROMANCING THE STONE but produces none of the humorous give and take between its lead characters. Preferring to bask in each others' radiance, Finn and Tess never get down to the delicious bickering that should take place between them.

With an overabundance of supporting characters, subplots, and treasure clues to be followed, there's barely time for the protagonists to engage in verbal duels and fall in love again. McConaughey and Hudson don't exhibit much chemistry, but surely an effort to create some romance would have been preferable to side stories about Nigel and Gemma's strained relationship and Finn's rivalry with his former mentor (Ray Winstone).

The threat and depiction of casual violence in FOOL'S GOLD clashes with the tone of this otherwise breezy getaway in the sun and sand. The bloodshed is not graphic, but it is stronger than the surrounding material demands. It is just another indication of director Andy Tennant's scattershot approach to a film lacking a defined personality.

Grade: D+

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