Fool’s Gold

Feb 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

In winter's frigid grasp, there's an irresistible urge to daydream about the simple comforts of a poolside deckchair, with plenty of comically large fruity cocktails at hand. That's the sales pitch of Fool's Gold, with its golden, sun-baked stars merrily frolicking their way through a tropical adventure, yet the end results on screen are about as much fun as sand in your swim trunks.

Kate Hudson scrunches up her dimpled cheeks and Matthew McConaughey flexes his shiny pecs furiously, but all their easy charisma can't overcome a hopelessly dopey script and painfully inept direction. Minus a few references to hip hop and text messaging, this empty-headed romp could have been a vehicle for Frankie and Annette, if not Bob, Bing and Dorothy.

Lameness is, of course, eternal, and the parade of clichés and stereotypes here is impressive, if nothing else about the production is remotely memorable. McConaughey shrugs his way though his role as Ben Finn Finnegan, a ne'er do well treasure hunter-hustler, which is basically the same part he played in Sahara, but with Ewan Bremmer as his sidekick instead of Steve Zahn.

Hudson, meanwhile, is Finnegan's ex-wife Tess. She has finally quit her Bahamas beach-bumming ways and cleaning up after her man-child hubby and taken a Yacht steward's job babying an eccentric millionaire (is there any other kind?), played by a barely awake Donald Sutherland. Everyone gets a chance to get their groove back when Finn discovers a chunk of 18th century Spanish dinnerware, which gives him an idea of where the Queen's lost dowry has been hiding all these years.

But wait, there's a catch: the booty is hidden beneath an island owned by a thug rapper to whom Finn owes money. And said rapper sports a large collection of bumbling henchmen intent on gumming up the works. There's also a group of rival treasure hounds — and the millionaire's super-indulged sexpot daughter — to deal with, but they absorb just enough screen time for the leads to reapply layers of coca butter.

Watching pretty folk fight and flirt is what's important here, not the tedious historical particulars of the sunken galleon that people keep droning on about, but director Andy Tennant insists on dwelling on the details. His other favorite trick is hitting McConaughey over the head with hard objects, from gun butts, to cricket bats and conch shells and the head traumas arrive at regular intervals whenever the action needs a pick-me-up. One could dwell on the failed gags, the creeping racism, and the ridiculous accents many fumble with here — Bremmer's fake Lithuanian's so thick it needs subtitles — but you'd be spending more time worrying about quality than the producers did.