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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Fool's Gold
Fool's Gold
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // June 17, 2008
List Price: $28.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Cameron McGaughy | posted June 17, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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"Your uselessness is epic."
- Tess Finnegan, to Benjamin

The Movie
In a recent episode of Family Guy, little Stewie Griffin has a chat with Matthew McConaughey: "You know Matthew, I may not ever get another chance to say this, so I just want to get it off my chest: You are just awful. You're one of the worst actors in the history of film, and I think that you need to go away."

"Oh thanks man! The truth is I spend at least 90 percent of my year going away, visiting exotic places, having sex with my beautiful girlfriend, just doing sit-ups. And then counting money...money that I've made on terrible films that I've put out into the American populace because they just love to see me, doing what it is that I do."

I couldn't stop thinking about that as I sat through Fool's Gold, the latest from director Andy Tennant--the man who has given us a number of moderate non-failures like Hitch, Sweet Home Alabama and Ever After. It also marks the second pairing of McConaughey with Kate Hudson, following the painfully predictable How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days in 2003.

I imagine that when people send McConaughey scripts, they include notes for his muscles: If you make him run a lot and keep him short of breath, his abs will clench. If you make him cling for life to the outside of a plane, his biceps look quite striking. And if you put him in a fight, there's amble opportunity for displays of defined triceps. Hey...I love beefcake just like the rest of you, but it only goes so far.

Ab-solute situation

Welcome to Fool's Gold, a beautifully empty film. There's a lot of attention given to the meaningless lost treasure history (including a yawn-inducing scene that describes the excruciatingly boring back story), but all you really need to know is that there's booty at the bottom of the ocean near Key West (which looks an awful lot like Australia), and lots of people want to find it. For Benjamin Finnegan (McConaughey), it may be the only way to help save his crumbling marriage to Tess (Hudson), who is ready to sign divorce papers after years of dealing with his irresponsibility. She now works as a steward for billionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), who soon gets a visit from his starlet daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena). They have a distant relationship that becomes one of the film's silly subplots.

Meanwhile, Ben is in big trouble with Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart, stroking a rabbit in his first scene), a rapper/businessman who sang the hit "Call Me Thumper" and apparently killed someone called Fuzzy Dice (or was it Pogo Stick?). He has financed Ben's escapades--but now wants his money back. Bunny hires some cronies to help him, including Ben's former mentor Moe Fitch (Ray Winstone). Soon, everyone is trying to find the Queen's Dowry as the film becomes a mild mash-up of Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

It's remarkable that three writers worked on this script, because there's a stunningly small amount of story in the over-long 108 minutes. Nearly 20 minutes into the film, I was amazed at how little had actually happened, and it doesn't get any deeper. But it becomes obvious that the movie doesn't aspire to be anything more than a colorful caper with Bob Marley tunes, and it has more in common with a Bugs Bunny cartoon than anything else (no offense to that wascally wabbit, who wouldn't be caught dead in this...and there's actually a reference to him in the film!).

The Bunny Hop

Ben is frequently put into situations that blend extreme violence with impossible escapes or acts of heroism. Whether he's trying to save his life by moving an anchor at the bottom of the ocean or being blasted out of the water by an explosion, the film is all about exaggerated situations and eye-popping visuals. Hudson gets in on the action, too, knocking Ben to the ground with a blow to the head (she so cra-zay!)--and later slamming a shovel between Bigg Bunny's legs. The film is an emotionally empty feast for the eyes, with beautiful locations, beautiful bodies and beautiful colors lighting up the screen. Who needs story, right?

Shovel in groin? Priceless.

Hudson does her Hudson thing--looking absolutely gorgeous as she charms her way through silly material, playfully stumbling over thoughts and words ("Stewing? Stewarding?" Aww, how cute!) while trying to align her head with her heart. She is one of the few actresses that can get away with it, but I hope she gets stronger material, because I think she can handle it. And despite McConaughey not offering anything we haven't seen before, the two do play well together...although the driver of their relationship seems to be sex and money, not actual love and affection. The film has a running joke with Tess alluding to one of the few reasons she actually likes Ben (I don't want to be vulgar, but I'm it rhymes with "Coral Hex"), and the only time the two are aligned is when they get excited over the treasure.

Sutherland seems to be living his droll emotions, looking very unhappy to be in every scene, while Dziena plays the airhead just like anyone else would (she answers to the name "stupid" and asks questions like "The sea's all attached, right?"). You also get a pair of gay chefs who fawn over Ben ("It's more than just the sheer power of his raw sexuality, it's the totality of his emotional commitment to the task at hand!") and are later involved in one of the film's many cheap jokes--this one involving a shotgun and the phrase "Cock it" (clever!). Bunny and his henchmen all have thankless roles, a greedy group more concerned with money than human lives (would it have killed the writers to create one positive African-American character?).

Gemma loves suggestive swordplay.

The film can't quite pull off its balancing act of delight and danger. Tess and Ben are frequently put into frightening situations with life-threatening consequences, yet when push comes to shove the movie chickens out with comedic solutions that feel fake and forced (if someone is trying to kill you, are you really going to settle for a sucker punch?). Fool's Gold tempts you with intrigue, but it's too scared to pull the trigger. It's an odd combination that doesn't gel...but with Matthew McConaughey's 18-pack on display, I was sometimes too distracted to care.

Ummm....triceps!

But then there's the voice of Stewie, screaming into my head: "You're not hearing me. Dazed and Confused was the one thing that was passable...after that, everything else was awful. Contact? They didn't even need you in that. They could have done the while movie without you."

"I know, I said the same thing, but they were like, 'Oh we need a good looking guy with a great ass and some tight abs, who just provides some down-home enthusiasm in this picture...something to counter-balance Jodie Foster. They took her to be slightly cold, unapproachable, you know? So they put me in there. I said it didn't make any sense...said the same thing about that Bill Murray elephant movie. But it was just like, 'Aw, audiences need you! Hee hee!"

"You make me physically sick to my stomach and I wish that you would get a heart attack."

"I totally feel you, man. Truth of the matter is, I don't like my movies either, but they just keep offering me movies and I make money and I do it, and I get to go around the world. I mean, did you see Sahara? Ha ha! But I tell you, what that movie gave me was an opportunity to take an Airstream all across the country and sell that picture one person at a time."

"You suck donkey ass."

"Now you can't prove that..."

Oh, Matthew! I don't want to! You and Kate are too darn cute to dislike!

The DVD

Video:
Presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 presentation, Fool's Gold looks a lot better than it feels. It shines in the outdoor scenes that capitalize on its beautiful backgrounds, with rich, deep blues striking a memorable pose, and the lead actors bathed in shades of gold. Some scenes are a little soft, and I noticed some minor edge issues on body silhouettes, but overall this is a very pretty film to look at.

Audio:
Equally effective is the 5.1 track, which does its best to surround you in subtle sounds: the ocean waves, the purr of a helicopter, crickets...its not overpowering (maybe slightly on the weak side), but still enhances the experience. You can choose an English, French and Spanish track (as well as subtitles).

Extras:
Surprisingly weak on supplements, all you get here are two short segments: a gag reel (2:44) is a brief look at behind-the-scenes shenanigans, not really bloopers; while "Flirting with Adventure" (4:30) is a short collection of interviews with Hudson and some of the crew giving tongue baths to each other (of McConaughey, she says "We fight well, and we flirt really well"). It could have been a much better feature, only glossing the surface of the pair's chemistry--an odd brother/sister connection behind the camera that comes across intimate on screen.

Final Thoughts:
Is Fool's Gold a good movie? No. It's surprisingly short on actual story, instead relying on pretty pictures--from stunning locations to Kate Hudson's smile to Matthew McConaughey's pecs--to get by. It's a cartoon come to life, blending colorful, eye-catching visuals with a playfully violent streak--a combination that doesn't quite work. But as bad movies go, I can think of much worse things to watch--it's dumb, but it's pretty. Rent It.

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