Director: Andy Tennant US. 2008. 113 mins.
Feeling as if it was lashed together from bits of earlier, more convincing romantic comedies and adventure romps, Fool's Gold is a rickety vessel that just about reaches its destination thanks to the star power of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson and the helmsmanship of Hitch director Andy Tennant.
Winter audiences up for a good-looking piece of sunny Caribbean escapism could turn this Warner Bros release into a decent box office performer, though matching the take of McConaughey and Hudson's 2003 rom-com hit How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days might be difficult.
The romantic adventure opens this weekend in North America, against little direct competition and in the same early February slot as the previous McConaughey-Hudson teaming, which went on to gross $105.8m domestically. A strong opening should set the film up for lucrative exposure in ancillary markets. Neither star is a huge draw internationally, so the overseas gross seems likely to be smaller than the domestic take (How To... managed $71.6m outside North America).
McConaughey is in his familiar lovable rogue persona playing scrappy undersea treasure hunter Ben 'Finn' Finnegan. In the script by John Claflin and Daniel Zelman (co-creator of cable series Damages), Finn's obsession with finding a priceless treasure trove lost off the Bahamas in the 18th century has already ruined his marriage to Tess (Hudson) and is now threatening to get him in deep trouble with local gangster Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart, from Epic Movie).
Finn eventually convinces billionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland) -- on whose yacht Tess is working -- to back his search. But standing between him and the treasure is his one-time mentor Moe (Ray Winstone, from Beowulf), now working for Bigg Bunny.
Most of the film's first hour is occupied with Finn's attempts to evade Bigg Bunny and his bickering with Tess. The comedy, though, is broad and only mildly effective and the banter lacks edge and wit.
Perhaps in an attempt to compensate, the script introduces a surfeit of minor characters and sub-plots: there's Honeycutt and his spoilt, ditsy daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena, from Broken Flowers); Finn's cynical Ukranian diving partner Alfonz (Ewen Bremner, from Trainspotting); and the gay chef couple that lends Tess moral support.
Only after a drawn out exposition scene - in which Finn and Tess spin the romantic but convoluted tale of how the treasure came to be lost in the first place - does the hunt begin in earnest.
The focus in the last half hour turns more to water action and Tennant (a rom-com specialist whose other credits include Sweet Home Alabama and Ever After) delivers some enjoyable sequences on and under the sparkling Caribbean waves (actually shot in Australia).
McConaughey and Hudson are attractive leads - with the well toned McConaughey showing off the most skin - with some real chemistry, but they're not helped by the script's flat dialogue.
Most of the other performances feel forced, with Bremner, Winstone and, especially, Sutherland adopting unconvincing and unfunny accents.
Director of photography Don Burgess (Enchanted and Forrest Gump) gives the film a warm and attractive look that should help attract chilly January moviegoers.
Warner Bros Pictures (US)
De Line Pictures (US)
Donald De Line
James R Dyer