Movie Review: Chasse aux trésors
By Sid Smith, Chicago Tribune Critic
"Fool's Gold" is a movie that keeps reminding you of its antecedents, all the way back to 1984 and the comic adventure "Romancing the Stone."
That's one you don't hear a lot about these days, but in its time it was enormously popular, blending Spielbergian adventure with sexual combat waged artfully by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. In "Fool's Gold" the battle's fought by the sweeter, more bland team of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, while the adventure, a hunt for a sunken vessel laden with gold and jewels, uncomfortably recalls the "National Treasure" series.
McConaughey plays Finn, a scavenger on the trail of a ship that sunk in the 1700s laden with the riches of a Spanish royal dowry. Earlier, he'd been helped by his wife, Tess (Hudson), whose research skills brought all sorts of scholarly tips to the pursuit. But she finally wearied of his financial irresponsibility, and, as the movie opens, he's seen finding a key clue underwater while she's preparing their Key West divorce.
Fate reunites them on the yacht where she's working as a steward for ultra-rich Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), who's lured into helping Finn, partially by his daughter (Alexis Dziena), a spoiled bimbo and Finn enthusiast.
Meanwhile, battling this team are Finn's former patron (Ray Winstone), a wealthy rapper named Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) and his gang of brutal, if comically stupid, minions.
The "Hardy Boys Meets Nancy Drew" scenario aside, "Fool's Gold" is mostly a Date Night U.S.A. entry, and on those terms it succeeds moderately well. Reteamed from "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," McConaughey and Hudson are easy on the eyes, and, judging from the camera's fondness for McConaughey's bare limbs and rippling muscles, women are the main target, the action tossed in to mollify their mates. Director Andy Tennant ("Hitch," "Anna and the King") nevertheless shows some invention with his action machinery, including a scene in which McConaughey's character dangles from a seaplane and stunts involving people and objects flying through the air only to manage fortuitous landings. An airborne sword, for instance, alights between a spread-eagled Dziena's legs on the deck of a boat - shameless phallic imagery, but executed with cartoon timing.
Alas, the characters, too, are comic book cliches, beginning with McConaughey, a latter-day Jimmy Buffett, set in opposition to Hudson's doctoral candidate. In another era, the movie might have been titled "The Beachcomber and the Scholar." But even that shopworn conflict is watered down. McConaughey never quite shakes off his clean-cut cuteness. He never, say, indulges in anything like the anarchic mania of Johnny Depp in the "Pirates" franchise - McConaughey stays too pretty, even after endless violence to his face. Hudson, sadly, has never recaptured those shifting moods and faraway depths of "Almost Famous." Instead of academic virago, she's a wholesome if spunky woman-next-door destined to fall again for McConaughey's manly allure. Like the subplot involving Sutherland and his daughter, the outcome is predictable.
The wasted talents include Sutherland, affecting a hokey British accent, and hatchet-faced Ewen Bremner, more droll in last summer's "Death at a Funeral." Aquamarine waters and blue skies are nice to view this time of year, but the "Fool's Gold" quest comes up short: It's a comedy in need of more laughs.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language).
Running time: 1:52.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey (Ben Finnegan); Kate Hudson (Tess); Donald Sutherland (Nigel Honeycutt); Ray Winstone (Moe Fitch); Kevin Hart (Bigg Bunny); Alexis Dziena (Gemma).
Directed by: Andy Tennant; screenplay by John Claflin and Daniel Zelman; photographed by Don Burgess; edited by Troy Takaki; music by George Fenton; production design by Charles Wood; produced by Donald De Line. A Warner Bros. Pictures release.