I have to hand it to Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. Thanks to the $100 million-plus gross of their previous cinematic romantic comedy, 'How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days,' their chemistry apparently proved so irresistible to audiences that Hollywood was willing to greenlight almost anything else with the pair in it. So now we have 'Fool's Gold,' a film's whose title is all too apt -- this is a hollow concoction, a film whose only reason to exist is to exploit its two stars for big box office bucks. It's like a movie poster concept masquerading as a movie.
Hudson and McConaughey play the just-divorced couple Tess and Benjamin Finnegan. Though typical romantic comedy opposites (he's irresponsible, she's practical etc.), they are clearly meant for each other, even if they're the last people on Earth to realize it. So when Benjamin stumbles upon a complicated plot to recover millions in submerged treasure, he reels Tess back in for one last adventure. Dragging along the wealthy Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland) and his irritating bimbo daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena), the group embarks on a crazy treasure hunt, and anyone who doesn't realize in about ten minutes that Tess and Benjamin are going to get back together has obviously never seen more than three movies...
Only about a half-hour into 'Fool's Gold,' I had the sinking feeling that I was watching nothing so much as an updated version of the movie 'Overboard.' Only that late-'80s gem (which starred Hudson's real-life mom, Goldie Hawn) was actually clever, amusing, and fun. 'Fool's Gold' is pretty dreary, with a belabored series of washed-out cliches substituting for a truly engaging plot, and overacting in place of subtlety. Though Hudson has proved in the past she's capable of delivering a comedic performance as fine as her mother's, here she comes off as lethargic, as if even she realizes the script and character are beneath her. And McConaughey is simply dreadful, hamming it up and cashing a paycheck, and so darn smug you want to wipe his preening grin off the screen with Windex.
Ironically, the parts of the film that work best are actually the thriller/adventure elements. Though there is a laughable scene about midway through where the entire plot is explained via silly exposition, at least there is a glimmer of fun and intrigue as Hudson and McConaughey attempt to find their treasure. Sutherland is also a welcome tag-along, and his little eyebrow raises are priceless -- it's almost as if he's winking with us at how dumb the movie is. Unfortunately, even here 'Fool's Gold' proves it's no 'Romancing the Stone' (another superior flick from which it cribs relentlessly) and simply goes on too long -- there is no reason this film should be 112 minutes, and even before the big climax, we've long stopped caring about these annoying characters and their quest.
Ultimately, 'Fool's Gold' is another example of Hollywood banking entirely on the chemistry of its two leads, rather than on a solid script. Hudson, and particularly McConaughey, are simply given a thankless task, to make these unpleasant and shallow people likable. Despite a few cute moments, some nice cinematography (the tropical locations are certainly sparkling), and a half-hearted stab at Indiana Jones-lite adventure, 'Fool's Gold' comes up with its treasure chest empty.
'Fool's Gold' comes to Blu-ray in a 1080p/VC-1 encode (2.40:1). It's a sun-drenched and colorful presentation, if one laced with a few nagging problems.
A comedy largely set at sea, the majority of the film's runtime takes place in picturesque locations and is flush with brilliant waterlogged exteriors. Colors are almost overdone, with the blues and yellows eye-popping if far from realistic. Fleshtones also look a bit too plugged up and artificial. The brightest spots of the transfer certainly lends themselves to great depth and detail, however, and daylight shots often look terrific. Alas, blacks are somewhat washed out and there's a weird soft-focus glow over much of the movie that I found distracting. At least this is a clean encode, and I noticed no compression artifacts or noise. Despite some great visual moments, I found 'Fool's Gold' a tad disappointing.
For whatever reason, Warner has decided to drop any high-res audio option from 'Fool's Gold,' and gives us, well, fool's gold -- only standard Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks are provided in English, French-Quebec and Spanish (all are 640kbps).
Given that the film is such a lively action-comedy, it really deserved better than such a weak bitrate. The mix is certainly polished and presentable, but there is nothing to distinguish it. Dynamics are adequate but don't stand out, with decent low bass and well-balanced dialogue. Surrounds are largely inactive, and I was quite shocked at how few discrete effects there were. Ditto for score bleed or any sustained atmosphere, and even the perky use of lighthearted pop tunes is rendered flat. 'Fool's Gold' is just plain bland, and for a new release it really should have sounded a whole heck of a lot better.
Sharing the same set of supplements with the standard DVD, this Blu-ray is so extras-starved that I'm surprised Warner even bothered to add anything at all. This is the lamest new release I've seen from the studio in recent memory. (Video is presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 video only, and the featurette also includes English, French and Spanish subtitles.)
'Fool's Gold' is an utterly predictable romantic comedy disguised as a seafaring thriller, and it's the latter quality that's actually the more entertaining aspect of the movie. It also attempts to coast merely on the wattage of its stars, but even Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey aren't enough to enliven this landlocked adventure. The Blu-ray is lackluster, too, with only decent video and audio and nary a supplement in sight. This is a disappointing release, and it's only worth a rental if you're a fan of uninspired romantic comedies, or Hudson and McConaughey.