Movie Review: Fool's Gold
By Matthew Huntley
March 21, 2008
I believe film criticism to be an art, and I have never suffered for my art as much as by sitting through Fool's Gold. As a film critic, I feel it's my duty to watch a movie through to its end, including the closing credits, but Fool's Gold made me go back on that rule. As soon as "Unit Production Manager" appeared on screen, I made a mad dash for the exit. It had become that unbearable. The filmmakers should be thankful I lasted as long as I did.
To call this movie an utter dead zone would be letting it off the hook too easily. My mind and bones actually ached while watching it because of how anxious I grew wanting to leave. In a way, the filmmakers deserve a special honor for making something this outrageously awful. It's so bad it's practically artistic.
Do I even bother explaining the plot? Yes, because maybe then you'll understand my criticisms more clearly. Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson star as Ben and Tess, a newly divorced couple who embark on a treasure hunt with a kind billionaire, Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), and his spoiled daughter, Gemma (Alexis Dziena). They're searching for the Queen's Dowry, supposedly the most famous sunken treasure in history, said to be buried somewhere near Key West.
Chasing after them is a rapper named Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) and his two henchmen (Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Brian Hooks). Ben owes Big Bunny a large debt, which is why he persuades Tess and Honeycutt, who's also Tess's boss, to help him find the gold and jewels. Ray Winstone ("Beowulf") has the thankless role of playing Ben's rival treasure hunter.
The movie wants to be like Romancing the Stone, or even National Treasure, and no doubt it was pitched to Warner Bros. as a cross between those two. But it possesses neither of those movies' charms or humor. In fact, it manages to break the fundamental rule of moviemaking: it's boring. The characters deliver such long, drawn out dialogue it's perplexing to think the editor never wanted to cut it. Maybe someone thought the stale conversations about the whereabouts and history of the treasure were interesting, but it could have just as easily been a high school history lesson. Can you imagine how un-cinematic your teacher's notes on the overhead projector would be? That's what this feels like.
The movie has the right to inform us of its plot, but it loses us early on with all the names and events linked to the treasure. By the halfway point, I didn't care where it was, if Ben and Tess found it, or if the two leads fell in love again. By the way, they do fall in love again. What, you're surprised?
There's even a small, undeveloped subplot about Nigel's relationship with Gemma, which seemed to come out of nowhere. Alexis Dziena isn't much of an actress, at least not here, even when a bimbo (her claim to fame was as Sharon Stone's naked daughter in "Broken Flowers"). But she doesn't play Gemma as one of those funny, likable bimbos. She's vexing and squeaky, the kind you want to throw overboard to the sharks. And Donald Sutherland seems like he's playing his part only as a favor to the studio.
The treasure search and climax, complete with a moped chase and falling off cliffs, drag on and never fully excite us. Director Andy Tennant, who last made the refreshing Hitch, seems to have lost all touch for moving his storylines towards any meaningful or humorous conclusions. Maybe the problem is the buried treasure premise itself, which has been done to death in Hollywood after Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure and Into the Blue. Or maybe it's because the chemistry between the actors is flat and dry. Or yet, maybe it's the characters simply acting stupid and saying stupid things.
What is funny is that there's so much wrong with Fool's Gold it's hard to exactly pinpoint its greatest flaw, but take my word it's a complete mess. It's a shame many couples are going to be suckered into seeing it because of its leads, romantic themes and light-hearted plot.