Pity the Fool 

There is no gold at the end of this terrible Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson mash-up.

"Do you think if we swipe this scene from Raising Helen, it'll help?"
  • "Do you think if we swipe this scene from Raising Helen, it'll help?"

When a friend recently told me that she'd been confused by the poster for the Matthew McConaughey-Kate Hudson fortune-hunting romp Fool's Gold adorning her local multiplex — that she'd thought for sure this movie had already come and gone — I understood her bewilderment. Even as a pro film critic, I myself was stymied upon first encountering the image: Was this really a new movie, or just some infernal clip reel, cut together from that McConaughey-centric Indiana Jones knockoff (Sahara), that rom-com where Hudson fell for some shaggy, overgrown slacker against her better judgment (You, Me and Dupree), and that movie where Hudson previously fell for McConaughey (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days)?

Well, Fool's Gold is, generously speaking, an "original" — though even the film's writers, John Claflin and Daniel Zelman, have borrowed from their own previous tropical treasure hunt, the 2004 schlock-horror sequel Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. And here's the rub: Anacondas was a lot more fun.

Fool's Gold is the sort of movie that makes you look more kindly upon the WGA strike. It isn't merely bad — it's so desperate that the actors can scarcely conceal their contempt for the material. You hear it in their voices, particularly those of the supporting actors, who don't even try to keep up the ridiculous accents they've been asked to don: Canadian Donald Sutherland as a British billionaire, Scotsman Ewen Bremner as McConaughey's Ukrainian sidekick, Brit Ray Winstone as McConaughey's southern-twanged rival, and erstwhile Cosby kid Malcolm-Jamal Warner as a gangsta rapper's Rastafarian henchman. Even McConaughey himself doesn't seem to be having a particularly good time, despite being cast as the same fun-loving, nude-bongo-drumming Adonis he plays regularly in People and Us Weekly. Sure, he puts on his best shit-eating grin as his Ben "Finn" Finnegan sprints half-naked through the streets of Key West, en route to his own divorce proceedings, or gets blown sky-high out of the ocean by a competitor's depth charge. But even those clownish escapades do little to abate the movie's air of humid joylessness.

The spectacle of McConaughey and Hudson (cast as Finn's long-suffering new ex-wife) lolling their way through Fool's Gold is so inert that it gives you a new appreciation for the uncomplicated pleasures of Into the Blue or After the Sunset or National Treasure 2. In those movies, at least you had the sense that the characters were in this for the thrill of the hunt or for the sake of historical preservation, or something other than cold, hard cash. But for all its convoluted backstory and blather about "holding history in your own two hands," Fool's Gold is as monomaniacally about greed as another recent film on the subject, minus the enveloping gravitas. It's There Will Be Blood in bikinis and board shorts.

Watching a movie this life-sucking, you start to scour the surroundings for something — anything — to hold your interest. The endless gag lines (in every sense) about McConaughey's supposed sexual prowess? No, thanks. The swishy gay chef character, who says things like "There's something wrong with my bisque"? Um, pass. Here and there, Fool's Gold does show brief signs of life in the form of 23-year-old actress Alexis Dziena, up to now best known as Sharon Stone's strip-teasing teenage daughter in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, and cast here in the rather thankless role of Sutherland's spoiled-heiress spawn. Yet Dziena takes this broad Paris Hilton parody and gives her a pleasantly ditzy charm that suggests airheaded trust-fund babies have feelings too. She's not onscreen nearly enough to merit the price of admission, but when she is, she's the only thing about Fool's Gold that isn't all washed up.

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