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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Fool’s Gold is one of those movies that, on the surface, appears to get it all right. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and feeling excited to see the film. Although I’m not the biggest Matthew McConaughey fan these days, the movie did clearly re-team him with Kate Hudson; together they shared enough chemistry to elevate the otherwise-lame How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The story looked like it had a Romancing the Stone type of vibe to it. And I knew that the director, Andy Tennant, is a competent craftsman of mainstream comedies like Hitch and Sweet Home Alabama. I certainly didn’t expect Fool’s Gold to be great art or anything, but it sure did look like a lot of fun.

Regrettably, this is one of those movies where the trailer is a lot more fun than the picture itself.

McConaughey continues his recent trend of appearing to play himself by starring as Ben “Finn” Finnegan, a good-ol’-boy beach bum with an aversion to wearing shirts. His somewhat irresponsible nature – coupled with a desire to deep-sea treasure hunt – has caused his marriage to Tess (Hudson) to deteriorate. There’s a whole long, drawn-out, and surprisingly dull story about a treasure known as the Queen’s Dowry that Finn has been trying to find for years. I admit to zoning out during the endless explanation of it, which must run at least seven minutes, but that’s okay. All you need to know is that Finn thinks he has found it.

To actually dive for the treasure requires money, and it just so happens that Tess is working as the steward on a yacht owned by multimillionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland) and his starlet daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena, in a performance so annoying you’ll want to claw your own eyeballs out). Finn weasels his way into their lives and gets them to sponsor his dive expedition, much to Tess’s dismay. Do I even need to say that the constantly feuding couple still harbor feelings for one another?

No, I do not, because if you’ve ever seen a romantic comedy, you will doubtlessly know where all this is headed. What I do need to mention is the villain, Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart), a rapper who dresses like Kanye West but apparently has the arrest record of Suge Knight. Bigg Bunny owns the island near which the Queen’s Dowry is located, and he has a strong interest in getting the treasure for himself.

After a fairly promising opening half hour, Fool’s Gold starts to show signs of desperation. A rapper as the bad guy in a sun-drenched treasure hunt movie? A Lindsay Lohan-esque teen starlet? These characters aren’t really necessary and they feel added just to make the movie seem hipper than it really is. Stories about people seeking long-lost fortunes are a tad on the improbable side to begin with. The only way to make them work is to take the premise semi-seriously. By adding such out-of-place characters as Bigg Bunny and Gemma, the film is automatically adding too much exaggeration to an already-exaggerated concept.

What’s worse is that the picture is fundamentally lacking in the kind of lightheartedness that made Romancing the Stone so much fun. The adventures Tess and Finn go on are not particularly exciting and only intermittently amusing. Most of the time, they’re just ridiculous, as in a sequence where Finn is blown out of the water by a depth charge. The ancient sword he found flies out of his hand and through the air, before landing right between Gemma’s legs. Again, it’s a little too much too much, if you know what I mean. The beautifully edited trailer for Fool’s Gold makes it seem like a fun-filled romp, but the movie itself is more leaden than bouncy. Hudson and McConaughey have the chemistry to pull off something breezier; it’s the screenplay that lets them down, especially in the needlessly violent climax.

I’ll give the stars credit: they’re game. It’s not hard to see how these two could have brought some energy to a better version of this story. McConaughey in particular feels enthusiastic here, probably because he gets to prance around on beaches and play in the water, as every issue of People magazine proves he likes to do in real life. (And that’s fine. I like a little enthusiasm in a movie star.) The movie never capitalizes on that giddiness, though. McConaughey isn’t given much to do except prance around without a shirt on and look studly. That may be partially satisfy the female side of the audience, but guys looking for a little eye candy of their own will be disappointed. Fool’s Gold is very unbalanced in that sense; you get two hours of a shirtless McConaughey but only two minutes of Kate Hudson in a bikini. I guess they figured women were the target audience.

Yes, the stars are attractive, and so is the scenery. There are little moments here and there where the two leads feel like they just want to cut loose and start having some fun, but they are restricted by a script that marches them predictably to a foregone conclusion.

While never reaching the level of being truly awful, Fool’s Gold certainly ends up giving you the same feeling that another recent underwater treasure hunting movie, the Paul Walker/Jessica Alba adventure Into the Blue, did. In fact, you could print it on a T-shirt: “My favorite stars spent three months in a tropical paradise and all I got was this lousy movie.”

( out of four)

DVD Features:

Fool's Gold hits DVD and Blu-Ray on June 17. Both the widescreen and fullscreen versions are contained on the same disc.

There are two bonus features. The first is "Mutiny on the Hi-larious Seas," a two-and-a-half minute gag reel that suggests the cast and crew had a good time making the film. The second is "Flirting With Adventure," a 4-minute segment in which the two stars discuss their on-screen chemistry. Interestingly, Hudson (lovingly) refers to her costar as "a pain in the ass." Regardless of what you think of the movie, it's true that these two do have some chemistry together, and it's interesting to hear them talk frankly about it.

Fool's Gold - Own it on DVD June 17 - Purchase it online here

Fool's Gold is rated R for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language. The running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.

To learn more about this film, check out Fool's Gold

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