Fool's Gold (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown
Sure, I "get" the Matthew McConaughey thing, to the extent that it's possible for a straight guy to comprehend. The chiseled torso, the lazy grin, the surfer-boy looks if someone created a composite of every college girl's spring break hook-up fantasy, I suppose it would resemble McConaughey.
But somehow filmmakers believe that the laid-back hunk translates into romantic-comedy leading man, despite a perpetually glazed expression that doesn't suggest love so much as a serious case of the munchies. The problem isn't that someone watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and believed McConaughey actually displayed chemistry with Kate Hudson. It's that it's hard to imagine McConaughey interested in any sort of chemistry that isn't ingested.
Because a McConaughey character must have a casually macho name like Steve or Dirk or Tripp, he plays "Finn" Finnegan, a man who spends his days scavenging the sea floor for treasure. His vagabond ways have finally sent his wife Tess (Hudson) to divorce court, but Finn finds a key to the quest that has long connected them: a fortune in gold known as the Queen's Dowry.
With the help of Tess' conveniently wealthy employer Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), they set off to find the treasure before homicidal rapper Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) scoops it up.
Director Andy Tennant (Hitch) tweaked the script created by John Claflin and Daniel Zelman, and it appears they were aiming for a romantic adventure along the lines of Romancing the Stone full of sun-soaked scenery and breezy danger. But such a delicate concoction requires a few key elements, none of which are displayed here.
First, it requires a director with a sense of pacing. A sequence early in the film finds Finn and Tess relating the history of the treasure, its only function being to demonstrate that something still connects them. But Tennant has no clue how to edit to this, leaving a painfully drawn-out chunk of blather.
It's also helpful if a light-hearted caper maintains a certain degree of focus. In Fool's Gold, there are too many supporting characters Honeycutt's tabloid-fodder socialite daughter (Alexis Dziena), Finn's rival/mentor (Ray Winstone), Honeycutt's gay-partner cooks (Adam LeFevre and Michael Mulheren) and Bigg Bunny's inept thugs leaving an hour of slogging along before the narrative finds anything resembling momentum. Plus, it's hard to focus when nearly half the cast is trying to pull off an accent of some sort, and failing spectacularly.
Of course, much of this could have been tolerable had there been any zip to the romantic pairing. Hudson's an engaging performer, but her character is hard to comprehend, since the film is building to a resolution that will eliminate the only thing Tess and Finn have in common.
Tess does dwell, however, on how amazing sex is with Finn; at least that's an honest way to deal with McConaughey's limitations. Fool's Gold doesn't even pretend to give him a character whose primary appeal isn't that of stud horse. It's content to let him wander around with his shirt off, with a rogueish smile, posing for his next "Sexiest Man Alive" cover. In a movie this shallow, it's fitting that the star is a Malibu Ken doll.