Fool's Gold

Reviewed by Jon Korn

Aspiring to the effortless fun of a classic screwball comedy, Fools Gold is so light and shallow that it floats away. While ostensibly a roaring yarn about a separated couples hunt for a lost treasure, the film treats its plot as a sort of MacGuffin, focusing instead on its beautiful cast-Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson-and exotic tropical locations. At times, the cast and screenplay combine to create a winning zaniness, but the filmmakers are unable to sustain the fun, or any other desirable tone. Damning with faint praise would be the operative phrase here, except damnation is far too strong a response to something so breezy.

Writer-director Andy Tennant, who previously helmed Hitch and Sweet Home Alabama, has stayed quite safely in his comfort zone. Although he does well with the large set-pieces, particularly in an opening scene that pretty much proves Murphys Law, Tennant largely ignores any intricacies of the mystery surrounding the lost treasure. The gabby script serves up successful comedy and lame gags in equal measure, while half-heartedly propping up the treasure hunt. Unfortunately, all the early fun is marred later on by several scenes of startlingly realistic violence, which drag the heretofore happy-go-lucky plot back into the harsh light of the real world.

Representing a sequel of sorts, the film reunites Hudson and McConaughey, the leads in 2003s How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, as soon-to-be-divorced couple Tess and Finn. Both Hudson and McConaughey seem to be as famous for their near constant appearances in the tabloids as for any accomplishment on screen, but they do have easy chemistry here. Indeed, the instant nature of their relationship contributes to the laid-back plotting; the filmmakers assume, or perhaps have exhaustively proven in focus groups, that the audience will immediately know these two are in love.

This familiarity disappears among the supporting cast, which represents one of the oddest collections of actors to be seen. Established thesps like Donald Sutherland and Ray Winstone are mixed in with newer faces like Ewan Bremmer, Kevin Hart and Alexis Dziena–and theres even a Malcolm-Jamal Warner sighting! The only thing uniting the ensemble is the filmmakers bizarre insistence that they all adopt some accent other than their own. Warner is saddled with a nebulous Caribbean lilt, Sutherland and Winstone switch nationalities, and, in a particularly sadistic move, the Scottish Bremmer is forced to portray a Ukrainian. Why any of this was necessary is an enigma much more formidable than the location of the missing treasure.

As a quick bit of text at the beginning of the film informs us, this bounty is the Queens Dowry, a Spanish fleet laden with gold and jewels that was lost back in the 18th century. Estranged couple Tess and Finn have been after the bonanza for the past decade, although he is still looking while she has found a new job working on the yacht of the benevolent plutocrat, Nigel Honeycutt (Sutherland). Desperate for money to continue his search, and to get away from a murderous rapper and nascent super-villain named, I swear, Bigg Bunny (Hart), Finn finds a new patron in Honeycutt. There are also multiple subplots involving Bunnys henchmen (Warner and Brian Hooks), a rival treasure hunter (Winstone), Bremmers aforementioned Ukranian, Finns reluctant sidekick, as well as Honeycutts gay chefs and ditzy daughter (a delightfully vapid Dzenia).

Needless to say, hijinks ensue. Punches get thrown; trays of food are dropped; guns go off in unintended ways; and explosions blow people from water to land, then back into the water again. In fact, one might make the argument that the leads were cast, at least in part, due to the impressive (narcissistic) appearance they make while soaking wet. McConaughey, Hudson, and Dzenia all acquit themselves quite nicely in various stages of soggy undress, although Winstone never gets a chance to revisit the extensive amount of skin he bared so triumphantly in “Sexy Beast.”

Apart from its temporary slide into gratuitous violence, “Fool's Gold” never presents much in the way of tension. The script feels bloated, putting off any sort of resolution for as long as possible, simply because everyone is having too much fun for things to end. Unfortunately, the film grinds to a halt whenever the story needs to advance, with the sprightly dialogue turning into an expositional morass.

Production value are polished, with beautiful locations, extensive and expertly shot underwater sequences and impressive stunt work. Much less successful is the score, provided by the well-known film composer George Fenton. There were multiple moments when the level of “emotion” in the music is extremely overdone, almost parodic. In comparison, the rest of the soundtrack, an uninspired assortment of “island” classics from Marley, Cliff, and so on, is refreshing in its predictability.

Truth to tell, the intent is to entertain, and Fools Gold occasionally does just that. Unfortunately, though, the pervading laziness leaves the characters underdeveloped and the plot mostly irrelevant. The little fun there was early on disappears almost immediately, along with just about everything else.

Cast

Ben “Finn” Finnegan – Matthew McConaughey
Tess – Kate Hudson
Nigel Honeycutt – Donald Sutherland
Gemma Honeycutt – Alexis Dziena
Alfonz – Ewen Bremner
Moe Fitch – Ray Winstone
Bigg Bunny – Kevin Hart
Cordell – Malcolm-Jamal Warner
Curtis – Brian Hooks
Cyrus – David Roberts

Credits

A Warner Bros. release of a De Line Pictures/Bernie Goldmann production.
Produced by Donald De Line, Goldmann, Jon Klane. Executive producers, Wink Mordaunt, Jim Dyer.
Co-producer, Stephen Jones. Directed by Andy Tennant.
Screenplay, Tennant, John Claflin, Daniel Zelman; story, Claflin, Zelman.
Camera: Don Burgess.
Editors: Troy Takaki, Tracey Wadmore-Smith.
Music: George Fenton; music supervisor, Julianne Jordan.
Production designer: Charles Wood; supervising art director, Raymond Chan.
Art directors: Damien Drew, Peter Russell.
Set decorator: Brian Dusting,
Costume designer: Ngila Dickson.
Sound: Paul Brincat; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Richard King; co-supervising sound editor, Hamilton Sterling.
Visual effects supervisor: Chris Godfrey.

MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 112 Minutes.