After watching Fool’s Gold, there’s only one question to ask Kate Hudson: does this sort of thing run in your family?
Fool’s Gold very much resembles those goofy action-adventure-romantic comedy plots that made her mother, Goldie Hawn, a genre unto herself. The type of film where she and Chevy Chase would bumble around a murder plot. Match wits with an albino assassin. Fall into a testy romance. And somehow save the life of the Pope. Although presumably in the eyes of the ladies, Matthew McConaughey looks like a bit of an upgrade in the sidekick department.
In truth, the plot of Fool’s Gold resembles any number of 1980s movies – Romancing the Stone comes to mind. Both films feature a hunt for a lost treasure through a tropical environment, with a bickering couple thrown together by circumstance. It was a time when screen couples were too busy dodging bullets to bicker about who failed to show up for drinks on time. Not that Fool’s Gold is a stirring example, but I for one kinda welcome this return. Bloody childhood nostalgia.
The movie starts on the deck of a sinking ship – a bold choice, given February film expectations. Ben Finnegin, a professional slacker/treasure hunter, has scraped from the Caribbean floor a shard of a Spanish royal treasure that went down centuries ago. Of course, the hunt’s financier, a thuggish hip hop producer who owns the nearby island, isn’t happy about the sunken vessel. Soon, Finn finds himself tied to the wrong side of an anchor on the wrong side of sea level.
He escapes, but not in time for his divorce hearing, which means the terms might make drowning seem like a good idea. Having sacrificed her academic career to hunt treasure, his fed-up wife Tess has ended up serving drinks on a yacht to a wealthy business magnate (Donald Sutherland) to make ends meet. She’s not too happy about it. Ready to return to academia, she at first meets news of his discovery by introducing his temple to a cane. But she’s eventually tempted to join him on the promise of one last adventure. Or maybe of sex. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
Director Andy Tennant, whose last effort was Will Smith’s huge hit Hitch, continues to present a dilemma for the discerning filmgoer. On the one hand, he takes some care to develop both sides of the battle of the sexes (to the lukewarm extent he develops anyone), a rare balance in rom-com these days. The adventure story, however confected, gives them a way to work out their attraction, one preferable to quibbling about unreturned phone calls.
Best of all, their attraction is based in carnal chemistry. In today’s film world, romantic comedies often feature a young professional woman halting a busy career to choose her favorite doormat. It’s refreshing to see a boyfriend who can’t be reformed, with a girlfriend who loves him despite it, or perhaps because of it.
On the other hand, Tennant treats filmmaking as the unfortunate but necessary work product of getting some sun on the company dollar. My guess is that his infallible professional judgment wouldn’t see many comic possibilities in a romantic triangle in Nome. While this is definitely a funnier script and more interesting romantic pairing than Hitch, the movie sinks into an unbelievable action finale that goes way overboard. By the way, don’t mention that last word to Kate’s mom or step-father.
McConaughey can’t help but being himself – shirt off, barefoot, unshaven, looking perpetually six minutes past the last margarita. But Hudson really is pretty good at this. She may be on the rom-com merry-go-round with the Mandy Moores and Drew Barrymores of the world, but she projects a more intelligent screen presence than the average ingenue. When she says something erudite, you suspect there’s a chance she actually understands it. She’s still young, and you sense there’s enough there to break out of her genre purgatory, if she chooses. But for now, she’s still stuck in the family business.