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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Fool’s Gold (review)

Irrational Treasure

Movies go wrong. It happens. Sometime’s things just don’t click. Everyone tries their darnedest and does their best, but the magic just ain’t there. This is forgiveable. Regrettable, but forgiveable.

And then there are movies, like Fool’s Gold, in which absolutely everything goes wrong. In which not one single element works… in which not one single element seems even calculated to have worked in the first place. In which every single wrongheaded element ends up working together only in an apparent attempt to force you to claw your own eyes out, and perhaps pop your own eardrums, so that the torture of experiencing it will end.
I can’t imagine why on Earth anyone would want a movie to fail so spectacularly on every level — perhaps there’s some sort of tax shelter thing involved, or a Springtime for Hitler scam scenario — but here it is. Springtime for Hitler and Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. Winter for Poland and France and everywhere else they have movie theaters.

A big mystery for me is why either McConaughey (We Are Marshall, Failure to Launch) and Hudson (You, Me and Dupree, The Skeleton Key) are even in movies at all. She’s got the nepotism thing going, of course: her mother is Goldie Hawn, though her startling resemblance to her mother should tip you off to that if you didn’t already know; too bad she doesn’t share her mother’s bubbly charm. But McConaughey is simply one of the most ickily unappealing men who have ever been foisted onto us poor audiences as a movie star. Why they’ve been thrown together not once but twice now — How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, as agonizing a cinematic experience as it is, doesn’t even approach the pain of this one — is an even bigger mystery. It’s like chalk on a board watching either of them — especially him — separately. And it’s worse seeing them together as, we are told, one of those couples who are so crazy mad in love with each other, so driven round the bend by their mutual lust, that it manifests itself as pseudo-hatred, until the third act when they’ll simply have to reconcile and get together again.

Here, they are divorcing spouses, formerly a team of treasure hunters — he did the diving, she did the library research, except when, you know, he had to be there in the stacks with her so they could have some crazy library sex. But now he’s made a new discovery in their longtime search for a lost 18th-century hoard of gold and jewelry and such, and he needs her help to find it, even though she’s just divorced him and whacked him across the head with a blunt object.

Fool’s Gold is such a bizarre amalgam of forced cartoonishness and schmaltzy sentimentality that I feel compelled to come to the defense of McConaughey and say that even though he probably deserves a metaphorical whack to the noggin, the viciousness with which Hudson’s Tess delivers that cruel blow to his Finn, which comes early in the film, instantly negates any sympathy she is supposed to be earning from us. We don’t like Finn, either, so now we’re on even footing with them, hating both as they embark on their charmless adventure across the Caribbean in seach of sunken Spanish riches.

Call it How to Lose a Guy in Six Days Seven Nights. This is what you get when the two guys who wrote Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid and something called They Nest team up with the director who vomited up Hitch, one of the phoniest movies about love and relationships ever excreted.

Look: There are awful, belabored running jokes about how supposedly amazing in bed Finn is, and others about the vast vapidity of a Paris Hilton-type heiress who’s one of their patrons. And as if the “jokes” themselves weren’t bad enough, director Andy Tennant lets the film pause after each of them, as if he’s waiting for laughter from the audience to subside. So there are long awkward silent moments that add to the movie’s already absurd running time, which feels like about four hours. There are entire casts of unnecessary characters — like the gangsta rapper to whom Finn owes money, and his posse, and a couple of gay chefs whose entire purpose seems to be to drool over Finn in an apparent attempt to convince us that McConaughey really is worth the fuss. There are ridiculous coincidences riddling the plot that could have been fixed with some simple but clever screenwriting.

But clever seems to be off the agenda here. Tennant clearly believe his audience is mentally retarded — this is a theme running throughout almost the entire slate of wide releases so far in 2008 — for he allows Finn to repeat the history of the lost Spanish treasure that we’d already gotten in some quick placards as the film opened. Perhaps Tennant feared we’d gone mad between the opening credits and Finn’s explanation, and forgotten all about it. It certain would have made the movie more enjoyable.

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MPAA: rated PG-13 for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
  • SeaSpot

    the answer to your query about how everything could go so terribly wrong is that MMC and Kate Hudson. Can’t. Act. Even a middling project can be redeemed by strong leads, but not these two bad actors.
    There is is.
    I apologise in advance to their fanbase.

  • CatPower

    thank goodness I’m not the only one who can’t stand MMc – I was trying to separate the person from his roles, thinking that was the problem, but now it seems I don’t need to pursue that time-wasting exercise – he’s truly not worth it! Kate is cute, but as stated above, no Goldie – not even close!

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t mean to cast asperions on McConaughey as a person in his real life, seperate from his roles: he may be perfectly lovely. But as an onscreen presence, he’s unbearable.

  • MBI

    Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson get to be in movies based on the large amounts of goodwill they built up in their breakthrough roles in “Dazed and Confused” and “Almost Famous.” Both were brilliantly executed roles of a lifetime. Neither have been any good in any movie they’ve been in since.

    Watching this movie was like having a rash for two hours.

  • Miguel

    I was invited to the set of this movie last year in Queensland, Australia. Even then I knew that the result was likely to be disastrous, but they had all been so enthusiastic about it, that I wanted to be wrong… but I wasn’t.

    No romance, no comedy, no real action. Just endless talks about this Spanish ship. did it sink? was that Spanish guy lying? the characters were the only ones who cared about the answers.

  • A Guy

    It’s much too soon to write off Hudson. You can’t take Almost Famous away from her. And while she hasn’t been in a better-than-average movie since then, are any of them her fault? Would audiences still want to see her if they were? Would any other actress have done better in those duds? (Finally, is picking good scritps really so hard? I guess so.)

    She’s still a star, and just one hit away from being a big star.

    (McConaughey is a different story entirely.)

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    Hudson was great in *Almost Famous.* But that’s a goodly while ago now. She needs to find better stuff if she doesn’t want to be written off.

  • A Guy


    And isn’t Gwyneth Paltrow basically in the same boat? In terms of being a leading lady?

  • MaryAnn Johanson

    Maybe. Gwyneth’s been on an extended break lately, with her babies, I guess. She needs something strong for her return. She’s got two scheduled for 2008, so we’ll see how she fares…

  • A Guy

    Scarlett Johansson just released an album.

    Has any actress’ film career pospered after releasing a musical album? I can’t think of one. (I’m sure the same applies to actors, I just don’t care.)

  • bitchen frizzy

    Bette Midler, for one. I’m looking for more. (I’m excluding anyone who was a famous singer before becoming an actor, like Queen Latifah.)

    It’s an odd question you ask. I don’t see how releasing a musical album results in an acting career going downhill.

  • A Guy

    Bette Midler was, I’m pretty sure, a famous singer well before The Rose, but I could be wrong.

    The point is, that for Jennifer Lopez, Lindsay Lohan and others, trying to become a “double or triple threat” has been movie career suicide. There’s something about trying to be everything that harms their movie star appeal.

    It’s almost as bad as starring in a romance with one’s spouse (which J-Lo is doing with El Cantante, which should just about finish her off as a movie star).

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