Fool’s Gold

Movie Information

The Story: A down-on-his-luck treasure hunter ropes his newly ex-wife into searching for a sunken treasure. The Lowdown: Flat romance, lame comedy and a so-so adventure plot are brought even lower by an excessive running time. Mild compensation comes from the scenery.
Genre: Adventure Comedy
Director: Andy Tennant
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland, Ray Winstone, Alexis Dziena
Rated: PG-13

Director Andy Tennant needs to send a thank you note—and maybe some flowers with a nice selection of fresh fruit—to Malcolm D. Lee. After all, it’s only Lee’s Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins that stands between Tennant’s Fool’s Gold and the accolade of worst movie of the week. Then again, both of their films look better on the relativity scale if you factor in last week’s releases. The problem is none of these considerations get outside the realm of “less awful.”

Fool’s Gold is one of those star vehicles that works almost entirely on the premise that watching pretty people in pretty locations is somehow sufficient entertainment all by itself. For those who are content to gaze upon McConaughey’s toplessness and Hudson’s bikini-ness, that may be true. Whether that constitutes two solid hours of amusement is another matter. The storyline is little more than an ungainly combination of screwball comedic romance (made by people who don’t grasp the form) and barely serviceable adventure yarn. It’s possible that there might have been an OK 80-minute movie buried in all this, but the additional 40 minutes more than takes care of that.

Interestingly, Fool’s Gold starts off rather nicely in a cartoonish manner that culminates in one of the better sight gags I’ve seen in a long while (one I won’t spoil here). It’s perhaps significant that the opening is bereft of dialogue, since the trouble sets in once the characters start talking. And no, I’m not only speaking in reference to the appalling Russian accent Scottish Ewen Bremner affects in his thankless (and characterless) role as sidekick to Benjamin Finnegan (McConaughey), though that is certainly symptomatic of what’s wrong with the whole enterprise. Hint: Dialect comedy is only funny if what’s being said is itself—oh, I don’t know—humorous. See Lionel Stander in Unfaithfully Yours (1948). What he says is funny. That he says it in a comical accent only enhances it. The same is true of snappy romantic banter. Here, that’s simply reduced to plain bickering between Finnegan and his newly divorced wife, Tess (Hudson).

As for characterization and romance, that’s reduced to the idea that while Finnegan is a shallow sharpster with a gift for BS, he’s dynamite in the sack. OK, so most of us have probably known folks who were terrific horizontally, but would eventually become vertical, speak and ruin everything. We also (hopefully) realized that this was shaky ground for a relationship. It’s also shaky ground for a movie hero, but Fool’s Gold likes the idea so much that the gag is trotted out and repeated at least four times. Granted, McConaughey and Hudson have a certain chemistry (best on display when she wallops him in the head with a golf club), but it’s not enough to fend off this script.

Trotting out more “comic” accents for Donald Sutherland (English) and Ray Winstone (Southern) only adds to the general smell of desperation (Sutherland at least scores a few points for facial expressions). The treasure-hunt plot itself isn’t dreadful, but it manages to be at once preposterous and uninspired. The convoluted nature of the treasure hunt is never persuasively believable, nor is it particularly cleverly constructed, relying entirely on the principle of “it just so happens that…”. Moreover, the film can’t decide whether its bad guys are really menacing or comical. As a result, they’re neither. What are you left with? The fact that McConaughey and Hudson look really nice in various states of undress. A nice magazine spread could have accomplished that with a lot less tedium. Rated PG-13 for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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