Review: Fool's Gold

A sandy romantic adventure unable to find its way out of first gear, "Fool's Gold" (IMDb listing) can't help but feel like one of the larger disappointments found in this new year of filmgoing. I mean, how often does a seafaring actioner come along, and then the guy hired to direct it is Andy Tennant?

Finn (Matthew McConaughey) is an absent-minded treasure hunter scouring the Caribbean for Spanish gold and jewels left behind 300 years ago. After sinking his ship, getting in over his head with rapper/crime lord Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart), and newly divorced from his exasperated wife, Tess (Kate Hudson), Finn talks an elderly millionaire (Donald Sutherland) and his dim daughter (Alexis Dziena) into funding another go at the fortune. Now, with a rival hunter (Ray Winstone) on their tail, Tess and Finn plunge into the deep water to unearth their treasure, finding danger every step of the way.

Sliced from the belly of "Romancing the Stone," "Fool's Gold" doesn't quite have the vision or the scripted mischief to rise above mediocre misadventures. It's a bland motion picture, but what could anyone expect when handing excitement and peppered banter to the man who gave the world "Hitch," "Sweet Home Alabama," and the Olsen Twins' "It Takes Two." Tennant doesn't have the muscles for this level of play, staging lethargic chase sequences and failing to locate a heartbeat of tension throughout the entire film. "Gold" is game to bust out of the box and distribute some merriment, but Tennant doesn't know how to maneuver the picture properly.

While the action calcifies to "Baywatch" displays of beach bravery, the comedy isn't too far behind. Why "Gold" isn't sharper and funnier is beyond me, since both McConaughey and Hudson are quite good in their roles, sharing agreeable chemistry along with vivid displays of tanned flesh that will surely make the film a popular Valentine's Day rental for years to come. The script relies on stupidity for the laughs, and that level of writing tends to dry out quickly, leaving the actors all keyed up for big punchlines, only to be left hanging awkwardly in mid-sentence. Dziena deserves special credit for sinking her teeth into the nubile twit role, but even she loses her voice near the end when the script has nothing more to offer her.

The unease with comedy is amplified in the final act, which shovels in a healthy amount of violence, perhaps once intended to balance more evenly with the laughs. Without chuckles present, the bloodshed in the final reel of "Gold" is off-putting, not to mention robotically choreographed by Tennant, whose inexperience with kinetic action assembly blows a ripe chance for giddy tropical mayhem.

What's to like about "Fool's Gold?" Well, the Australian locations (aka "Florida") can't be beat. Basking in the crystal blue sea and golden shores, the picture is a stunner to behold, making one wish for an immediate Gold Coast vacation. I can see why so many actors were eager to snatch a part in the picture. There's also something to be said about McConaughey's enthusiasm for surfer dude roles. Long stretches of the convoluted plot are entirely dependent on the actor's charisma, and McConaughey is always willing to dive head first into whatever he's playing. In the case of "Fool's Gold," McConaughey's gusto is one of the few highlights of a decidedly pedestrian picture.

Filmfodder Grade: C