Sometimes, it’s actually beneficial to judge a film by its
cover title, and audiences should be cautioned not to expect riches from Fool’s Gold. In fact, if you expect more than the evenly-tanned, glorious bodies of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, you’ll likely be very disappointed. Fool’s Gold sees the leads from How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days reunited for more begrudging romance in the form of an action-adventure caper. Unfortunately, director Andy Tennant (Sweet Home Alabama, Fools Rush In), along with fellow screenwriters John Claflin and Daniel Zelman, weaves a convoluted tale that is far too overwrought and plot-heavy for the film’s lighthearted mood. The result is mixed, but it will find its salvation with those who acknowledge that between love and shirtlessness lies Matthew McConaughey.
Fool’s Gold is not (and let’s be honest, it was never intended to be) a good film, but it is filled with low-cal, nonfat, frothy goodness for the target audience — straight women and gay men who want to gawk at a shirtless McConaughey. The actor flings himself enthusiastically into his role, but then again, he’s basically playing either his true self or, at a minimum, the McConaughey persona that he presents while jogging or assuming yoga poses in public. His character, Ben “Finn” Finnegan, is an impish treasure hunter who, naturally, is quite fond of strutting around shirtless (that is, without a shirt). In fact, it’s nearly impossible to accurately report how many times McConaughey removes his shirt (I kept losing track, what with the shirtless man on the screen). He seems to take more shirts off than he puts on, somehow, all the while, flexing, preening, and glistening. For the men who get dragged to this film by their girlfriends, Kate Hudson isn’t exactly offensive viewing material either. In fact, despite her limited acting range and lack of visible promise since Almost Famous, she’s the perfect choice for this film, even if her character is poorly drawn and lacks illustrations (and doesn’t remove her top).
Fool’s Gold opens with two dimwitted dudes, Finn and his buddy Alfonz (Ewen Bremner), who are combing the ocean floor. While they are preoccupied with their metal detectors, Finn’s salvage boat (the classily named “Booty Call”) springs a gas leak and explodes. When Finn makes one dive into the sunken boat to snatch some gear, he bypasses all his maps and belongings and returns with only one item — a picture of his estranged wife, Tess (Kate Hudson). Awwwwww. Finn is obviously very much in love with Tess, who is presently divorcing his slacker ass. As Tess finalizes things, her attorney says, “You married a man for sex, and now you expected him to be smart.”
Oh, but the sex was great, you see.
The second act involves a lot of exposition involving sunken Spanish treasure, which weighs the entire film down like a shirt on McConaughey’s back. Tess takes a job as steward aboard the yacht of the wealthy and very English Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland). Through one of many sets of fucked up circumstances, Finn ends up aboard Nigel’s yacht when his daughter, Gemma (Alexis Dziena), becomes smitten with the rogue scoundrel. Then, McConaughey smooth talks the millionaire into funding an expedition for the legendary Queen’s Dowry. At that point, the film descends into a series of needless subplots and introduces several minor characters that fade into one another without consequence.
This film isn’t something that will appeal to anyone looking for a coherent story. It is, however, passable entertainment for adults — as it includes brief nudity and constant sexual innuendo. This certainly isn’t a ride for everyone, and you probably won’t give it a second thought when you wake up the next morning. But if you like casual romps without consequence, this is the safest experience you’ll find these days. Many will be pleasantly surprised by how little of the film actually centers upon the chemistry between McConaughey and Hudson. This is a good thing, because as separate entities, these two actors are quite appealing; in their scenes together, they’re about as sexy as an emergency shower in a chemistry lab.
Fortunately, Fool’s Gold includes two supporting actors who manage to salvage the wreckage wrought by our decadent main players. Donald Sutherland easily slides into the role of wealthy Englishman who, while distinguished, enjoys an occasional adventure. The elder Sutherland is so understatedly seductive that you almost hope that Tess will run away with him instead of continuing to love her ex-husband. Then, in a clearly won demonstration of how to steal the film from a leading lady, Alexis Dziena performs an almost brilliant parody of the celebutante culture, impressing as a bouncier, far less gloomy version of Fairuza Balk.
Fool’s Gold manages to charm in many ways, but it entirely fails when it comes to important things like, say, coherence of plot and character development. Tennant shows his inexperience in directing action and adventure by stuffing the last twenty minutes of the film with the bulk of the action. Compared to the meandering slapstick humor of the first 90 minutes, the final act is unsettling in its sheer amount of violent bloodshed. Also troubling is the film’s stereotypical treatment of race. Representing Jamaica, mon, is a very inflated and dreadlocked Malcolm-Jamal Warner. To add even more splendid ignorance to the filmmakers’ repertoire, every African-American character is either a gangster, rapper, henchman, or some combination thereof. The Scottish Ewen Brenman is entirely unintelligible here, which I guess is the filmmakers’ cutesy way of depicting his ethnicity; in fact, his character is generally referred to not as Alfonz but as “the Ukranian sidekick.” Personally, I preferred Bremner when he was shitting himself in bed as Spud in Trainspotting, if that tells you anything at all about how I roll.
If this film manages to produce any lingering philosophical questions at all, one can only wonder why McConaughey has pretty much abandoned substantive roles in films that have earned critical acclaim (e.g., A Time to Kill, Contact, Amistad) to step into piles of cinematic crap like The Wedding Planner and Failure to Launch. To some degree though, you gotta respect the guy for embracing a caricature of himself and not endlessly complaining to journalists about how he wants to prove himself, not as a sex symbol, but as a real actor. After all, things could have turned out much worse for Fool’s Gold, say, if McConaughey had kept his shirt on.
Agent Bedhead (a.k.a. “Kimberly”) lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.Prolongs Active McConaughey.
Film | February 6, 2008 | Comments ()