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McConnaughey, Hudson offer no glitter in Fool’s Gold

by Glen Baity

Remember Almost Famous?

You should: it was a great movie, one of Cameron Crowe’s best, and Kate Hudson was the best thing about it. As Penny Lane, she captured everything good, dangerous and sad about dedicating one’s life to rock n’ roll. That’s no small feat, but Hudson scored big in that intensely personal picture as the groupie queen with bedroom eyes and a broken heart.

If you don’t remember that role, or exactly how great Hudson was in it, it might be because you’ve seen one of her movies since Almost Famous. Her résumé in the past several years has been a dull blur, romantic comedy after romantic comedy, which over time have gelled into one endless, sad picture: How to Lose a Career in 10 Years.

It cries out for an intervention. Rarely has this been more obvious than in Fool’s Gold. The film is brought to you by director Andy Tennant (who previously gave the world Hitch and Sweet Home Alabama), aided here by John Clafin and Daniel Zelman, the writing team behind Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. It’s the story of Tess (Hudson) and Finn (Matthew McConaughey), a freshly-divorced pair of treasure hunters who rekindle their faded romance over the promise of millions in sunken Spanish galleons. It seems the wreck of the Aurelia, long thought lost, has turned up near the Florida Keys, where the couple lived. All Finn needs is a boat and a few thousand dollars to salvage a king’s ransom from the ocean floor.

Sound exciting? It’s not. To put it bluntly, you can plop it in the middle of the ocean, but there’s no getting around the fact that Fool’s Gold is the same paint-by-numbers rom-com you’ve seen a million times. Really, do the people who write these sorts of movies know more than two character types? Sexy scrub Finn is unreliable, immature and perpetually broke. Tess is tired of looking past his flaws and is ready to move on. But in the end – at least in the movies – opposites that attracted once will attract forever.

But oh, how long you’ll have to wait for those sparks to start flying anew. Tess, in explaining her relationship with Finn, actually manages to sum up the film itself quite well: “It’s complex,” she says, “but not in a good way.”

Indeed, despite having about 15 minutes’ material, none of it really excellent stuff, Fool’s Gold drags on and on like the bad dates it was plainly designed to be a part of. The convoluted plot unspools over nearly two hours, with plenty of time set aside for lame quips and running gags. It distinguishes itself only by its tone-deafness – the way the characters, particularly a doddering Donald Sutherland, seem completely lost in most scenes, or the way George Fenton’s bouncy score rarely reflects what is happening onscreen.

Just so you’ll have an idea of how deeply, deeply silly this film is, there are two characters obviously modeled after celebrities here in the real world, which in itself is a pretty crappy idea: Hip-hop mogul Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) is obviously supposed to be P. Diddy (but blander, if that’s possible), while Gemma (Alexis Dziena) represents your ditzy heiress of choice – think Paris Hilton, since you’re obviously meant to.

At one point toward the end of Fool’s Gold, Bigg Bunny has to make a getaway (in a sea plane, no less), as Gemma gives chase on a Sea Doo. Just to be clear: that’s Paris Hilton running down P. Diddy, on a jet ski, in the final act. But when your supporting cast features such perennial stock characters as the supportive gay friends, the horny sidekick and the wizened elder treasure hunter, maybe having Paris and Puffy along for the ride isn’t the worst you can do.

Through it all, there’s Hudson, sadly resigned to pratfalls and mugging for the camera when she could be doing real work. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of good actors occasionally find themselves in bad romantic comedies. But only a few make them almost exclusively, and Hudson’s in danger of relegating herself to the pastel section of film history. Anyone who can recognize wasted potential won’t find much in Fool’s Gold but a well-built ship run aground.

To comment on this story, send your e-mail to glen.baity@gmail.com.

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