|Fool's Gold (2008)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Friday, 08 February 2008|
I doubt I’m the first and I’m sure I won’t be the last to point out this gilded fluff has a very apt title: like iron pyrites, it’s bright and shiny but without much value. There’s not a new idea, novel character nor any surprises anywhere in this bouncy comedy-adventure. It’s pleasant enough to sit through, and leads to a well-staged (if prolonged) action climax, but it’s as substantial as spun sugar.
Ben “Finn” Finnegan (Matthew McConaughey) and his diving partner Alfonz (Ewen Bremner) are SCUBA-ing at the bottom of the Caribbean when an unlikely accident sinks their dive boat—without either of them noticing, even though it hits the ocean floor a few yards away. (It kicks up a lot of obscuring sand.) As he has been for the last eight years, Finn is searching for the “Queen’s Dowry,” a huge treasure of precious metals and gems lost at sea back in the 18th century. (The movie and its notes present this as a real lost treasure, but Googling and Wikipedia can’t find it, except in reference to this movie.)
Lately, he’s been financed by gangsta rapper Bigg Bunny Dean (Kevin Hart), who doesn’t take kindly to the near-zero results Finn’s come up with this time. So Bunny has his henchmen tie Finn to an anchor and toss him into the Caribbean (after a struggle). Finn frees himself because he has to get to the court in Key West before his divorce is finalized that very afternoon.
His wife Tess (Kate Hudson) is shedding herself of him for reasons that are never very clear; it’s just a plot device to create tension between these two whom we are shown all too clearly are Meant For Each Other. Finn tells her of a fragment of dinnerwear he found in that most recent dive that proves the Queen’s Dowry has to be nearby. (By the end of the movie, this clue is forgotten.) Since she’s spent their eight-year marriage almost as fired by the search for the Queen’s Dowry as Finn is, she’s caught up in it again.
There’s a lot of fussiness before they connect with squillionaire Nigel Honeycutt (a suave, British-accented Donald Sutherland), who has a huge yacht perfect for treasure hunting. But Bigg Bunny—who, sigh, totes around a real bunny for a while—has that fragment and wants to find the treasure himself. Conflict. And more conflict, when Finn’s former boss Moe Fitch (an underused Ray Winstone) also begins searching. All three groups converge on and near the private island Bunny owns. (A fact underlined in the movie, but which plays no part in the adventure.) After all, the treasure is worth something like five hundred million dollars—but these days, aren’t treasures returned to their “rightful” owners, in this case Spain?
Also, Nigel’s teenage daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena) arrives—she’s on school holiday—and pitches in as well. She’s a cute, chipper kid; it’s surprising she’s not given an equivalent teenage boy to fall for. There’s something about a mild estrangement from her father, but this doesn’t really lead anywhere. Nor do her occasional teenage-bimbo comments. Dziena is a charmer, though, and looks terrific in the wide range of costumes—mostly bikinis—she wears. There’s even a bikini with suspenders.
The script by writing partners John Claflin & Daniel Zelman and director Andy Tennant is very busy, but it’s laden with characters who are emphatically colorful yet have little to do. Take Ewen Bremner, for example. The Scottish actor is playing (as someone in the movie describes him) a Ukranian sidekick. He’s Ukranian, apparently, just because that’s the thing for sidekicks or second-string bad guys to be these days. His accent is bizarre; he should have just been Scottish. But he also shouldn’t have been in the movie in the first place—he has nothing much to do. It’s like Bunny’s apparent need for only two henchmen. One of the two he has at the beginning is shot dead by another guy who takes the first one’s place—but why couldn’t the first one just continued? The character is nearly useless no matter who plays him. There are also two cooks (I guess) on Sutherland’s yacht who are arch, gay and friendly—but who have no plot function whatsoever.
It doesn’t help that the story of the original loss of the Queen’s Dowry is difficult to follow—and then doesn’t have anything significant to do with how or why the treasure was lost. The movie spins like a whirligig, sending off sparks, pretty to look at but going nowhere. The climax, involving chasing a pontoon plane on a Skidoo before the plane can get airborne, is exciting and well staged, like the kind of stunt scenes found halfway through James Bond movies.
Andy Tennant is an average director; among his previous films are “Hitch,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Ever After” and “Anna and the King.” In his comedies, he tends to allow or instruct his actors to over-play everything a bit; instead of BEING funny, they’re merely ACTING funny. That usually has the reverse effect of what’s intended, much as too-“funny” scores tend to oversell everything. The actors who come off best here are Sutherland and Winstone, who’ve been around long enough to when too much really is too much. Hudson is okay in this regard, too; maybe, as the daughter of Goldie Hawn, it’s in her genes. But McConaughey overplays almost all the would-be comic scenes; he’s more irritating than charming.
Though set in the Caribbean, the movie was mostly shot along the east coast of Australia, though no advantage at all is taken of the amazing underwater attractions of the Great Barrier Reef. And sometimes this adds a kind of surreal element—the Key West we see here has high, rolling hills….
Sometimes the attempts here at spectacle are illogical; Finn has no problem at all surviving nearby underwater explosions, even though one of them is powerful enough to blast him fifty feet into the air. Wouldn’t he at least have been temporarily deaf afterward? Also, the underground/underwater terrain of blow-holes (where ocean waves spurt big gouts of water) seems a bit wonky here, enough so that people who haven’t ever seen one (there are several to be seen in Hawaii) might find what they’re watching improbable.
However, these moviemakers want so much to entertain you, and they’ve been given a reasonable budget to accomplish this, the movie really does entertain every now and then, fortunately mostly in the last couple of reels—that’s what people will remember as they drive home. It’s a bright, sunshiny movie with attractive people, beautiful locations, a few charming actors and Sutherland’s handsome yacht. It’s nothing major, not in movie history nor the careers of these actors (I hope Winstone enjoyed his latest Australian trip), but it’s modestly entertaining.