Reviews

Fool's Gold

By Garth Franklin February 8th 2008
Fool's Gold

Idyllic tropical beach locales combined with the equally picturesque tanned torso of Matthew McConaughey make "Fool's Gold" a visual treat. Certainly the fusion of romantic comedy and treasure hunting makes it a very marketable one - a more sunny and sandy take on "Romancing the Stone".

Once the eye candy value wears off however, there's precious little left to salvage from this awkward genre bender that couldn't hold a candle to Kathleen Turner & Michael Douglas' adventures (even the sucky second one).

The re-teaming of McConaughey and Hudson after their success in the less ambitious but more comedic "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" isn't a bad idea, the pair do work well on-screen together and but the chemistry has downright cooled making even the characters they're playing feel a lot more like workmates bickering than the scorned romance of an ex-husband and wife team.

The story has him playing Finn, a not particularly bright treasure seeker searching for a half billion dollars of sunken Spanish booty off the Floridian coast. Tess (Hudson) is his wife, the pair having spent most of their time together in search of the treasure with little success.

Early on she divorces him as she wants to move on with her life and is sick of his immaturity. At the same time though he finds a vital clue leading to the treasure and soon the pair ally themselves with her new employer, multi-millionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland) to help find it before Finn's mentor and rival Moe (Ray Winstone) or the island's murderous rap star owner Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart).

Both leads seem bored with their threadbare characters and the flat dialogue. "Hitch" director Andy Tennant gives them little to work with either, the more comedic setups early on in the picture are almost painfully performed as if they were doing a pantomime - not helped by frequently recurring scenes of Hudson hunching her shoulders in frustration or McConaughey getting whacked in the head.

The comedic and especially the romantic aspects of the script are its weakest link, and about halfway through the writers seem to just give up on the whole divorce element and vague references to McConaughey's sexual prowess in favor of the convoluted chaos surrounding both the sunken treasure's over developed back story and the assorted wacky people in pursuit of it.

Stock characters from a pair of camp gay chefs to Donald Sutherland armed with an overly polished British accent never push this out of unfamiliar territory. Ray Winstone as the rival treasure hunter seems to have had most of his subplot trimmed and quickly becomes an ally for little to no reason. On the other hand Alexis Dziena, a kind of less insane and more glamorous looking Fairuza Balk, manages to make the most out of her lacklustre spoiled bimbo heiress routine and delivers a few consistent if predictable giggles.

The bad guys though are surprisingly dark and uninteresting. Hart plays Bigg Bunny as little more than a brutally murderous gangster, whilst Aussie actor David Roberts as his most dangerous henchman is only there to shoot or hit people. Much of the last half hour sees some pretty violent fights, gun battles and deaths including a quick fountain of blood. Yet the danger and sudden violence seems a tad out of place with the rest of the film's tone which is far brighter and almost G-rated in nature.

The treasure element is also not particularly compelling, though more believable in its placement and discovery than Nicolas Cage and his ability to kidnap the US President on a whim. At nearly two hours its a good twenty minutes too long and often sluggishly paced.

Production crew make solid use of the locations with many of the major islands and towns of Australia's north Queensland region standing in for the Caribbean. Short of acting as a tourist brochure for the region, or simply giving us a good chance to perv at McConaughey's chest (a work of nature so perfect it'll make all the straight men in the audience question their sexuality), the film lives up to the iron pyrite of its title - pretty at a glance but ultimately cheap and worthless.

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