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Dustin Putman

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Fool's Gold  (2008)
1 Stars
Directed by Andy Tennant
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Alexis Dziena, Ewen Bremner, Ray Winstone, Kevin Hart, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Brian Hooks, David Roberts, Michael Mulheren, Adam LeFevre, Rohan Nichol, Roger Sciberras.
2008 – 113 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 5, 2008.
A poor attempt to reclaim the success of Matthew McConaughey's and Kate Hudson's last starring vehicle, 2003's "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," "Fool's Gold" is a tepid romantic adventure that bombs both as a love story and as a daring treasure hunting pic. Writer-director Andy Tennant (2005's "Hitch") and co-writers John Claflin and Daniel Zelman (2004's "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid") get off to a long-winded start and then remain in neutral for the duration of their patience-testing 113-minute running time. The fools, it turns out, are audience members who get duped into thinking this will be a fun, energetic romp.

On the very day that fed-up Tess (Kate Hudson) divorces career booty hunter Ben (Matthew McConaughey), he uncovers a piece of a plate under Caribbean waters that is part of a long-hunted 1700s Spanish treasure called the Queen's Dowry. When circumstances lead Ben to being welcomed aboard a fancy yacht owned by billionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland)—the same sailing vessel that Tess is working as a steward on—Ben, Tess, Nigel and Nigel's ditzy heiress daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena) soon have teamed up to find the rest of the legendary loot. They're not alone in their search, though; rapper-gangster Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) and his cronies, whom Ben owes over $62,000 to, are in hot pursuit, and aren't about to let him get away with the treasure alive.

One can only assume that the central arc of "Fool's Gold" is the rekindling romance between Ben and Tess. Without getting a true sense of their relationship prior to the film's opening and never given any hints as to what Tess ever saw in Ben outside of his chiseled physique and noted talents in the sack, their love story remains waterlogged. Matthew McConaughey (2006's "We Are Marshall") and Kate Hudson (2006's "You, Me and Dupree") shared nice chemistry together in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," but you'd never know it from the evidence here. McCounaughey is unusually charmless as the childish, incapable-of-change Ben, letting his bevy of shirtless scenes do the acting for him. Hudson, as Tess, is straddled with a dull character who mostly frowns and looks disapproving. Together, these characters aren't likable or endearing or much of anything; they exist solely as screenwriting constructs whose lives begin and end with the movie's opening and closing credits.

Meanwhile, the treasure hunting plot lacks creativity and spark, consisting of a whole lot of convoluted exposition and book-reading and precious little actual exploration. When the physical action finally gets underway in the third act, the setting moving outside of the claustrophobic confines of the yacht and into sequences taking place in underwater caves and on a pilot-free seaplane in need of landing, it comes too late to salvage what has long since become a study in tedium. It all almost makes one nostalgic for 2004's "National Treasure" and 2007's "National Treasure: Book of Secrets;" those pictures were ludicrous and silly, but at least they took the characters to interesting locations and gave them more to do than just stand around.

Ben and Tess are so boring that it is left to two supporting performances to occasionally lift the film above being completely insufferable. As father and daughter Nigel and Gemma, whose own relationship strengthens through their quality time spent together on the expedition, Donald Sutherland (2007's "Reign Over Me") and Alexis Dziena (2005's "Broken Flowers") act circles around the leads. Dziena is especially sprightly and amusing as a Paris Hilton-type who makes up for her lack of smarts with what turns out to be a lot of heart. She gets the only truly funny moments—and there aren't many—that the film provides.

Who was "Fool's Gold" made for? The romantic interludes are unconvincing afterthoughts, while the adventure portion is ho-hum at best. Comedy is in short supply, falling flat save for Alexis Dziena's aforementioned contributions. Tossing in two raging queens as comic relief only signals how desperate the enterprise is; haven't we moved past these kinds of egregious stereotypes in the twenty-first century? Even the exotic Caribbean setting isn't as attractive as expected, with too much of the film closed up in interior settings or poorly framed by cinematographer Don Burgess (2006's "My Super Ex-Girlfriend"). If you've seen the theatrical trailer or television ads for "Fool's Gold," you've seen the film. There is virtually nothing new or fresh that is offered from this listless, woebegone trifle.
© 2008 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman