Director: Andy Tennant
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Alexis Dziena, Ray Winstone, Malcolm Jamal-Warner
Running Time: 112 min.
½* (out of ****)
A deep feeling of embarrassment swept over me as I watched the very appropriately titled “romantic comedy” Fool’s Gold, which is neither romantic nor a comedy despite what its trailers have advertised. I was embarrassed in myself for spending $1.00 to watch it. I was even more embarrassed for anyone who spent much more than that to see it in a theater. But most of all, I was embarrassed for the actors appearing in it, specifically its two stars, since this film couldn’t have possibly come at a worse time in each of their careers.
A couple of months ago I was talking to someone about which celebrities we thought had charisma and it was a surprisingly short list. Not necessarily exceptional acting ability, but are just able to radiate charisma and charm onscreen. Both of us agreed Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are two of them, even if both have been coasting on that attribute for far too long. It's finally caught up with them.
Up until now, even while making sloppy film choices, both actors were always the best parts of whatever failure they were starring in. How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days may have been awful, but they injected a certain energy and enthusiasm into the proceedings while sharing at least a fair amount of chemistry onscreen. I may not have been having a good time, but at least they looked like they were. Here they appear in a movie so bad that it drains them of any spark they may have had. It was only a matter of time, but finally they’ve caught up and look as bored as I am. I know the year’s still young but I’d be shocked if I see a comedy (or movie in general) in the remaining 6 months worse than Fool’s Gold, which is not only painful to sit through, but manages to plunge the depths of cinematic incompetence.
In the film’s overly complicated plot, permanently shirtless and grungy slacker Finn (guess who), gets a hot lead on a long lost Spanish treasure while sailing in the Caribbean. He brings it to the attention of his now ex-wife Tess (Hudson) whose working as a stewardess on the boat of multimillionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland). In one of the most boring, long-winded dialogue scenes you could imagine, Finn tells Honeycutt and his visiting Paris Hilton-like daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena) the sleep-inducing tale of the famed sunken treasure and soon they’re all on their way to find it. But also after the treasure are Finn’s old mentor Moe Fitch (Ray Winstone) and a gangster rapper named “Bigg Bunny” (Kevin Hart) who's hired The Cosby Show’s Malcolm Jamal-Warner (!) to kill Finn.
All of this nonsense and the film’s title may lead you to believe this is actually about a treasure hunt but it’s not. The actual treasure hunt doesn’t begin until the last half hour of the picture. The rest of its running time is spent watching McConaughey show off his six-pack, listening to Hudson’s character babble about her ex-husband’s sexual prowess, being asked to laugh at two cooks because they’re gay and listen to some really bad attempts at accents by the actors. We’re treated to Winstone attempting a Southern drawl (I think), Warner going Jamaican and Ewan Bremner as Finn’s sidekick inflecting (or rather inflicting) Ukranian.
The grand prize, however, goes to poor Donald Sutherland with his take on an aristocratic British accent, since all rich people must have a snooty sounding voice. But the worst part of this isn’t the actors’ poor deliveries of the accents, but rather that they were asked to do them at all. They’re unnecessary and pointless, adding nothing to the story. You could even argue if they were excised it would have made the bad performances a lot more bearable.
The film is also very violent for a supposed romantic comedy and there’s hardly a scene where Finn isn’t being assaulted or getting his ass kicked in some way. It continues non-stop for most of the movie and gets annoying. The guy is essentially a human punching bag who never stands up for himself, which needless to say, makes the character a little hard to root for. Even worse is Tess who complains about her ex-husband’s lack of money and ambition yet when he has a chance of finding this treasure she rides on his coattails like a greedy little gold digger. The ending of the film is a jumbled, action-packed mess as if all of the sudden they realized they had to make up for the lack of excitement in the entire first hour. I knew exactly what the final scene would be but what I didn’t prepare for would be how ridiculous the actors would look posing in it. I almost felt like crying for Sutherland and Winstone. Hopefully they were paid really, really well.
It’s sometimes said that an actor or actress giving an uninspired performance is “sleepwalking” through the film, but this is one of those rare cases where it’s literally true. Kate Hudson looks and acts tired and washed-out here, as if her alarm just went off and someone dragged her onto the set. I wouldn’t even consider it a performance, but rather a continuous series of flat line readings. As I watched I came to a startling revelation: Her career has turned into her mother’s. It brought back painful memories of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell starring together in Captain Ron, which might be an unfair comparison considering that disaster was still far superior to this.
It seems lately Kate has disappointedly decided that she’d rather be a movie star than an actress, which is a shame because she could have been both. Anyone who saw my list of my favorite all-time movies a couple of weeks ago should know just how much it pains me to bash Kate so you can just call this tough love The 8 years it’s been since Almost Famous it never felt so long ago as it did during this. I’ve been defending her choices ever since, but she’s making it increasingly difficult.
McConaughey doesn’t fare quiet as poorly mainly because it’s his comfort zone, but this marks his most uninspired work yet in his trademark beach bum role. If you don’t think this guy is being typecast then consider he’s starring in an upcoming film that’s actually titled…Surfer Dude. He started his career with some promise in films like A Time To Kill and Contact, but by just coasting on his natural charm and likeability he’s since fallen into an awful rut. His one recent attempt to stretch dramatically in We Are Marshall had disastrous results mainly because he’s so used to mugging in inferior junk like this.
In both actors’ defenses I’m only going this hard on them because I like them and want to see them in a good film for a change, with strong writing and a director who can properly channel their strengths. I’m wasting this space because I care, which is more than I can say for a lot of other less talented actors out there making similarly bad choices (paging Ms. Alba). They’re too good for this and should sit down and have a long talk with their respective agents, or better yet, just fire them.
There is one performer who at least manages to somewhat escape complete embarrassment. Alexis Dziena’s bratty rich girl character is annoying as hell but at least she’s SOMETHING. Dziena’s trying, which is more than can be said for anyone else. She’s also gets off the only funny line in the whole movie (involving alcohol), which I’m certain is the result of her delivery rather than the humor-impaired screenplay. Unfortunately, she’s made up to look like a 12 year-old hooker so when the older men ogle and lust after her I was waiting for Chris Hansen and the crew from To Catch A Predator to show up. If they did, we’d at least have something worth watching. The script’s attempt to infuse dramatic gravitas into her relationship with her father is perhaps the film’s most insane development, which is saying a lot.
The director (perpetrator) of this mess is Andy Tennant, whose previous films Fools Rush In and Hitch, while certainly not great, didn’t give us any indication he was capable of such an unwatchable atrocity. The only thing that ends up saving this film from the dreaded zero star rating is Don Burgess’ cinematography. It makes you want to go on a Caribbean vacation…with anyone but these characters. It’s nice to look at, but that’s about it.
It’s toss-up what’s scarier, how bad the film is or that it made box office bank. Probably the latter, but the good news for McConaughey and Hudson is that it means audiences are willing to see them in anything, so just think how successful they’d be if they actually starred in a good film, or even just one that's decent. If nothing else this movie can serve as a valuable teaching tool in film schools across the country. That there can be something as bad as this bad now is disconcerting, but the future is still salvageable. Take notes on everything Tennant and screenwriters Dan Claflin and Daniel Zelman did, then do the opposite. The result is all but guaranteed to be at least twice as good as Fool’s Gold.