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"FOOL'S GOLD"
(2008) (Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A recently divorced couple reunites in their quest for a long lost shipwreck treasure that they've been trying to find for the past decade.
PLOT:
Ben 'Finn' Finnegan (MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY) is a treasure hunter whose obsession with finding an early 18th century shipwreck off an island near Florida has led to the dissolution of his marriage to Tess (KATE HUDSON). She once shared his desire to locate the long lost treasure, but has had enough and wants to go back to academia, and thus goes through with the divorce proceedings to which, naturally, he's late.

He has good reason, however, as some local thugs, Cordell (MALCOLM-JAMAL WARNER) and Curtis (BRIAN HOOKS), who work for rapper/gangster Bigg Bunny (KEVIN HART), tried to send him to the sea floor attached to an anchor. It seems Finn owes Bigg Bunny a lot of money, and the fact that the treasure hunter and his diving partner, Alfonz (EWEN BREMNER), have possibly found the shipwreck means they want him out of the picture.

In the meantime, Tess has taken a job as the steward on a huge yacht owned by mega-millionaire Nigel Honeycutt (DONALD SUTHERLAND) who's dismayed that his airhead, party-hearty daughter, Gemma (ALEXIS DZIENA), is on the cover of various gossip magazines. When Finn ends up saving Gemma's hat out at sea, he draws the Honeycutt clan into his quest, much to the initial dismay of Tess who isn't happy to see him.

That sentiment is shared by salvage diver Moe Fitch (RAY WINSTONE), Finn's former mentor and business partner who's been hired by Bigg Bunny to find the wreck. With Tess now back on board, Finn and his impromptu team do what they can to beat the others to that, all while having to deal with Bigg Bunny and his newest and far more dangerous henchman, Cyrus (DAVID ROBERTS).

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
While it usually isn't the case in real life, people seem to enjoy watching couples bicker in the movies. That is, as long as that doesn't occur in realistic dramas (although there is an audience for that in TV soap operas) and instead shows up in screwball comedies and/or action flicks. And the more attractive the respective parties are, the more fun it seems to be.

One need only think of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in "Romancing the Stone" or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the more recent "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" for examples of just that. Accordingly, with the buff Matthew McConaughey and cute Kate Hudson showing lots of skin while searching for long lost sunken treasure, and -- of course -- bickering along the way, one might get the impression that "Fool's Gold" could be added to the list of entertaining "couples in a spat" flicks.

Don't be foolish, as there's no gold to be found in this listless, exposition-laden affair that might boast lots of eye candy (in the form of barely attired, trim bods in a tropical setting) and occasional bursts of frenetic action, but otherwise drifts aimlessly and ends up dragging the viewer down with it, slowly but surely.

All of which comes as a surprise considering that the two leads had decent chemistry together back in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" and that the director, Andy Tennant, mined some decent box office gold with Will Smith in "Hitch." The movie that will first come to mind, however, is "The Deep" as this pic opens with divers using one of those industrial underwater vacuum hoses to look for booty.

No, not the kind on display by Jacqueline Bisset back in '77, and when the divers' ship accidentally catches on fire, explodes and then sinks in the background -- with the two men not seeing the wreckage falling to the sea floor behind them -- we know there probably won't be any bloody chicken's feet trailed across bellies, morphine capsules or the like. Instead, the scene plays funny, and would seem to set the tone for what's to follow.

Unfortunately, it's about the best Tennant, co-writers John Claflin and Daniel Zelman, and their cast can muster. Sure, Alexis Dziena gets a little bit of comedic mileage playing the airhead socialite daughter to the mega-millionaire character played by Donald Sutherland (as both get caught up in the treasure hunt).

Yet, the bickering chemistry (and, more importantly, the dialogue) between McConaughey and Hudson's character isn't particularly smart or inspired and certainly isn't that amusing or entertaining. And the action scenes -- featuring the likes of Ray Winstone, Kevin Hart, Brian Hooks and Malcolm-Jamal "Theo Huxtable" Warner as others involved in the treasure hunt for various reasons -- feel pedestrian in their staging and probably get too violent for a pic like this (as much of the earlier material is dominated by McConaughey comically being hit on or over the head by various items).

What's worse, however, is the filmmakers' insistence on detailing all of the historical aspects of the long lost, sunken treasure. After some opening, and quick to-the-point, on-screen titles briefly explain what went down when and why, such material would seem to be out of the way for the film to progress.

Instead, the pic and its main characters repeatedly drone on and on about the history of the ships, where they may have gone and -- obviously -- where they most likely sank. The mystery and/or riddle if you will, however, isn't remotely intriguing (seemingly going for the "National Treasure" approach).

And since we don't see any of the back-story in flashback (thank goodness) and those centuries-old characters don't come back as ghosts (as in the first version of "The Fog"), all of that talk and discussion about the past doesn't end up amounting to anything. That is, except for taking the remaining wind out of this vehicle's already limp sails.

All of which means pretty faces and buff, glistening bods can only carry this pic so far. The result is that instead of discovering cinematic treasure, only a fool will find gold in this mossy, algae-covered wreck that quickly sinks not long after leaving its port of call. "Fool's Gold" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.




Reviewed February 6, 2008 / Posted February 8, 2008


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