Jaq's Review: Fool's Gold - Not So Hidden Treasure
by Jaq Greenspon
February 8, 2008
There's something about an underwater treasure hunt that gets my blood pumping. It brings out the pirate in me. Show me a film with promises of buried gold, shipwrecks and archaeological history and I'm first in line. Thankfully, Fool's Gold delivers. Mostly. Yes, there are chests of gold and sunken boats but there are also a few too many coincidences, silly dialogue and some weak performances.
The film opens with treasure hunter Finn (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Alfonz (Ewen Bremner) discovering the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle, which, we will find out, has been plaguing Finn for many years. Of course, we don't understand the significance of the shard of a plate, not yet, but that's part of what works in Fool's Gold. It's a mystery and it takes almost the whole two hours of the film to completely unravel.
One of the keys to solving it, though, is Finn's ex-wife Tess (Kate Hudson), an oceanic historian who stopped working on her doctorate when she met and married the irrepressible Finn. When we first meet her, she's taken a position on a luxury yacht as a steward and is doing everything she can to get away from Finn.
So far, everything sounds a bit disconnected, I know, and this is where the coincidences come in. All of these little pieces, along with a few others, come together to complete a plot which isn't all that convoluted but does stretch to a bit of the incredulous. Finn ends up on board the yacht, which is owned by multi-millionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), after rescuing the hat of Gemma (Alexis Dziena), the millionaire's debutante daughter. He then convinces Honeycutt to fund the treasure hunt. See how everything is falling nicely into place? Furthermore, the island where the treasure is allegedly buried is owned by a gangster rapper named Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) to whom Finn owes money and who therefore wants Finn dead.
So what needs to happen is Finn must find the treasure, take care of Bigg Bunny, reconcile with his wife and show the millionaires there's more to life than just being a ditz. And this he does. The problem, of course, is that since Finn wins (and I'm not spoiling anything here, his winning is never in doubt) by being Finn, he never changes, never learns anything from his adventures. When his wife comes back, she must relinquish all of her own self-esteem and desires to take her man as he is or not at all.
McConaughey is in surfer mode as Finn, giving him a light, superhero-style quality the film needs in order to balance Hudson's scholar. Both performances are serviceable but Sutherland plays Honeycutt as if he's sleepwalking through an English drawing room.
Where the writers, John Claflin, Daniel Zelman and director Andy Tennant, do a good job, however, is in setting up the mystery itself. They spend the time needed so the audience understands the allure of naval treasure hunting and why the sea holds so many mysteries. In the end, we are given a light-hearted comedy with a fun bit of action and, if we don't think about it too much, a pleasant way to spend two hours.