There seem to be about five different movies going on in “Fool’s Gold,” but none of them are particularly interesting. There’s a pallid romance between historian Tess (Kate Hudson) and her slacker, ne’er-do-well ex-husband Finn (Matthew McConaughey); a father-daughter bonding story involving the mega-rich Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland) and his celebutard offspring Gemma (Alexis Dziena); a treasure hunt involving all of the above plus wacky sidekick Ewan Bremner and good-ol’-boy Ray Winstone (doing, respectively, an absurd Ukrainian accent and an embarrassing Southern drawl); and a violent mob story about a thuggish rapper (Kevin Hart) and his bumbling henchmen (Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Brian Hooks).
It’s tricky to make a romantic comedy work with guns and the threat of actual physical harm, and no matter how many times he may have watched “Romancing the Stone” for homework, director Andy Tennant (“Hitch”) just isn’t up to the task.
The film begins with Finn and Alfonz (Bremner) finding a shard from a dinner plate that suggests they’ve stumbled upon “the Queen’s dowry,” a legendary lost treasure. In the process of doing so, however, they manage to burn and sink their boat, much to the displeasure of Bunny (Hart), to whom they are now greatly in debt. Coincidentally enough, Finn’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Tess is working on Nigel’s yacht, and just when Tess was about to convince Nigel to fund her own search for the treasure, Finn happens along and sweet talks him and Gemma into doing so.
Unfortunately for the audience, screenwriters Tennant, John Claflin and Daniel Zelman violate the “show, but don’t tell” law in the scene where Finn and Tess explain everything about the Queen’s dowry — it’s a seemingly endless piece of exposition, with Tennant’s camera madly circling the foursome in an attempt to jazz up pages and pages of dialogue. (And even worse, pages and pages of dialogue delivered by McConaughey and Hudson, who between them have all the personality of plankton.)
Bunny figures out what they’re up to and hires rival treasure-hunter Moe Fitch (Winstone), and soon the race is on. But by this point, the schizophrenia of “Fool’s Gold” makes it impossible for the audience to care about what’s going on. Whether you’ve bought a ticket hoping for romance, comedy or adventure, the film disappoints on all fronts. And the frequency with which people are shot or drowned wears away at any attempts the film makes to be frothy or screwball.
In a year or so, when “Fool’s Gold” winds up on cable where it belongs, watching these photogenic ninnies frolic in the clear blue Caribbean waters might be just the tonic on a miserably cold day when you’re under a blanket, running a fever and subsisting on mugs of bouillon. But don’t bother digging for it in the meantime.