King of California
September 14, 2007
Even in his later years, Michael Douglas averages one movie a year, and even though the 62-year-old doesn’t have a seamless string of box office hits, his name alone still draws people into theaters. Perhaps the only other actor in this age group with a greater bankability is Jack Nicholson, and there’s no shame in being second to him.
Douglas’ latest, King of California, finds him playing a mental patient named Charlie, who’s just been released from a psychiatric hospital. Charlie is the father of Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood), a high school dropout currently working at McDonald’s. The 16-year-old Miranda wants nothing to do with her father, who suddenly believes the treasure of an old Spanish missionary is buried underneath a California Costco. Charlie asks Miranda to get a job there so he can dig the treasure up after hours.
Hollywood is used to producing mildly bizarre dramas with emotional and humorous hooks, though the humor and emotion typically overshadow the bizarre so as not to scare away mainstream audiences. King of California looks to continue that trend. By the looks of the trailer, it’s a simple, straightforward story about the rediscovery of dreams and self-worth, and the importance of family, no matter how crazy and intolerable they may seem.
There’s probably not a whole lot of originality here (the movie has a whiff of K-Pax and The Fisher King, and indeed the lead role feels like it could have been filled by Robin Williams), but with Douglas and the recently prolific (and reliable) Wood taking the acting honors, audiences can at least count on strong performances, even if the story seems schmaltzy and predictable.
King of California will not be one a lot of people will feel the need to see in theaters, but if it proves to possess enough charm and wonder, the word-of-mouth could potentially push it beyond the limited release circuit. And with above-average reviews, it could have a run similar to last year’s The Illusionist.
The movie premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, though it has more of a television movie-of-the-week air about it than artsy independent cinema. The concept is safe and the character dynamics familiar, but these may be the kind of qualities Michael Douglas fans want from him at this point in his extended career. (Matthew Huntley/BOP)