Fool's Gold

Andy Tennant

In trying to explain the dubious popularity of Jerry Springer in the late 1990’s, a professor memorably decided that to viewers, watching the show was the ultimate form of catharsis in however bad they had it, at least they weren’t in the shoes of guests who had so many partners they didn’t know who fathered their child, had gambled away tens of thousands of dollars in welfare money, realized they were just one of several families their spouse had set up across the country, or were married to someone who used to be of an entirely different gender. I’m not sure if Professor Murphy was right but I liked her theory and there’s something to be said about our instinctive inclination to stare deeply at whatever shocks us which explains why people get into car accidents while distracted by watching a different car accident and those who roll their eyes disapprovingly at paparazzi magazines and then begin flipping through the pages anyway while in line at the grocery store, or after taking a bite of questionably funky potato salad, turn to a friend and say, “Dude this is the worst-- try this.” The sad thing is, most of us do, without even thinking about the internal gag reflex or the warning we just encountered, either for the aforementioned catharsis of “at least I didn’t make that salad” or the belief that something really can’t be as bad as everyone says it is and the same is often true of movies.

While I’m definitely taking everyone’s word for it that dental torture is preferable than sitting through The Love Guru and you couldn’t pay me any amount of money to see the crass, racially offensive Eddie Murphy comedies that have been released in the past few years, in the same turn-- like Pauline Kael who raved about the joys of trash-- I’m actually one of those people who in her heart truly tries to give others the benefit of the doubt. This is especially true if I like some of the involved personalities’ other work which is why-- having dug J. Lo in Out of Sight-- I actually added Gigli to my Netflix queue despite the Razzies and while it was indeed awful, perhaps the most embarrassing part of the entire experience was that it was one of the only times a Netflix film was ever lost in the mail so I had to report to the center that sadly, I needed them to send me another Gigli. I imagine I’m on a wall of shame somewhere and needless to say, there were no investigations over whether or not I was dishonest and secretly hording Gigli DVDs even to prevent subjecting others to the horrors of bad comedy.

And then this year, when it came to Fool’s Gold, the critics darn near wore out their keyboards trashing the cinematic reunion of Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey after their box office hit How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which despite its predictability and the fact that I’ve possibly lost all cinematic credibility, genuinely made me laugh enough to be curious about Gold.

This being said, I’ve often felt that men and women view films differently and none more so than romantic works. Whether straight or gay-- we’re turned on differently, turned off differently and as all daters know, definitely have our own timeline for everything and such is the case for romantic comedies or the oft-cited “chick flicks.” By the way: a note to you men out there-- as a label, “chick flick” is about as appealing as the various nicknames for our “time of the month” and if it's a phrase you insert into conversation frequently, it will definitely set you back a few places in (ahem) succeeding in your goal-oriented dating timeline.

When it comes to the rom-com genre and chick flicks in general, I listen to the largely male dominated industry out of intellectual respect, especially those with whom I share much in common or highly regard, but end up deciding to make up my own mind which is why, overlooking its many flaws I’m one of the only critics who enjoyed Baby Mama; who felt that while it was weak Made of Honor was better than the male preferred What Happens in Vegas; and although I probably would only recommend it as acceptable airline entertainment honestly didn’t think 27 Dresses was quite the end of civilization as we know it that my male contemporaries did. Although, this being said, while it’s definitely watchable if channel flipping, I find Pretty Woman incredibly unromantic so much that I roll my eyes at men who assume we all obsess about it and felt that the Sex and the City movie paled in comparison to the series-- so in the end, to each their own.

However, when it comes to the case of Fool’s Gold, it was so hammered that I guiltily sneaked into the video store like an embarrassed shopper, thinking they should perhaps rent the disc in a brown paper wrapper or behind the pharmacy counter and indeed, at my local store, there was a sign indicating that you had to ask for the film at the front desk, which made the experience feel just about as classy as Netflix’s missing Gigli.

Although I could take or leave Matthew McConaughey and frankly prefer his near look-alike Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama, Glory Road), I’ve been a fan of Hudson’s since she made us laugh and cry all in the same sentence realizing she’d been lost in a poker game in Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece Almost Famous and after a week of studying the Renaissance in grad school and watching too many depressing epics, felt like a brainless comedy was exactly what I needed. However, we get what we wish for and I couldn’t have found anything more brainless than Fool’s Gold—a film so bad that by this point it’s almost a cliché to ridicule it which is why I took a narrative approach to this review.

Except in the chosen few titles like The Princess Bride or Romancing the Stone, the hybrid of romantic comedy adventure seldom works but I held out hope after a truly memorable opening finds treasure hunter Finn (McConaughey) and his partner’s boat exploding in a fiery burst while they're underwater hunting for any clues in a few hundred year old mystery that will lead them to the whereabouts of the legendary Queen’s Dowry which was lost in a hurricane following the marriage of King Phillip of Spain. The exploding boat would be enough of a bad omen to give even those most resistant of superstition pause but Finn manages to outrun the men (including Cosby Show’s Malcolm Jamal Warner) who want to kill him and his debt of sixty two thousand dollars to try and convince his newly divorced wife Tess (Hudson) to go off on another adventure to search for the gold, conveniently of course setting them back on the path to reconciliation along the way.

Although they make a terrific bantering team, despite having a truly weak script that offers them zero of the opportunities which made their earlier movie together much more memorable, Hudson and McConaughey just feel as unconvincing, bland, and predictable as the overwhelming sun which finds the male star—at this point most likely contractually obligated—to remove his shirt with little prompting throughout the course of the entire movie. (Let's just say, I had to dig long and hard to find a publicity photo of the two above wherein McC was actually wearing clothes since to misquote Mamet, by now, "we can draw his chest from memory" whether we want to or not.)

Overcrowding the story with far too many details and less than stellar characters including an inexplicably wasted Donald Sutherland as Tess’s wealthy employer and his pointless, young bimbo daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena) both of whom seem to be used-- unfortunately like the African-American cast members-- to try and reach every demographic without respecting any reasonable audience member’s intelligence, Gold becomes so disastrous, one begins to wish for the discussed hurricane to come and bury the script, freeing up the actors so that they can move onto other projects that are hopefully better than this one.

And although I’m as guilty as the stars for taking any part in the film’s success by renting it, perhaps its reason for being was exactly that—that when handed the script, Hudson and company couldn’t believe that anything could truly be that bad. Unless instead of the script, they were first delivered their paychecks; for as we all know, gold can make a fool of anybody... just ask Jerry Springer.