Matthew McConaughey as Ben 'Finn' Finnegan
Kate Hudson as Tess Finnegan
Donald Sutherland as Nigel Honeycutt
Alexis Dziena as Gemma Honeycutt
Ewen Bremner as Alfonz
Ray Winstone as Moe Fitch
Kevin Hart as Bigg Bunny
Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Cordell
Brian Hooks as Curtis
David Roberts as Cyrus
Michael Mulheren as Eddie
Adam LeFevre as Gary
On the face of it nothing sounds as inherently romantic as treasure hunting (especially in the Caribbean), so it's no wonder brainy history student Tess (Kate Hudson) fell for the beach bum charms of Finn (Matthew McConaughey) and his tales of sunken treasure – specifically a fleet of 18th century Spanish gold – but after several years, she's come to accept the bitter truth that romance is incompatible with the real world and she's going to have to cut ties and get on with her life. Unfortunately, the only thing Finn holds onto tighter than his dreams of treasure ships is her.
A pretty standard Hollywood adventure film, "Fool's Gold" treds some pretty well covered ground in the area of Caribbean treasure hunts hitting all the standard iconography; underwater fistfights and spear guns, lots of diving scenes, yachts, beach bars and Spanish missions. There's only two real options for these types of stories, they can either take themselves deadly seriously, playing up the sex and danger and creating a kind of overripe soap opera, or they can play it off for a lark, lots of light humor and romance that's good for the whole family.
"Fool's Gold" chooses the latter route, which plays to director Andy Tennant's ("Hitch," "Ever After") strengths much better than a serious version would. Tennant chooses to play up the light character moments above the adventure, using the treasure hunt as a backdrop more than a central part of the story. Finn talks Tess's employer, billionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland) into funding his adventure, quickly loading the film up with a talented ensemble of both allies and antagonists who unfortunately get little to do as the film spends most of its time focusing on either Finn and Tess's failing marriage, or Nigel's attempts to reconcile with his Paris Hilton-esque daughter (Alexis Dziena, nearly as annoying as the real Hilton, and not in a funny way), leaving everyone else to be rather hastily sketched, existing to add accents to the film but nothing of substance. Perennial side kick Ewan Bremner and Ray Winstone as Finn's old rival are the most underused compared to their potential, especially Winstone who's introduced and then essentially forgotten until he's needed for the climax. It's a tribute to the strength of the actors that they manage to make their moments as charming as they do because McConaughey and Hudson, while suitably charismatic, aren't really interesting by themselves as she continually gets mad at him, finds herself drawn to him against her will, then distances herself out of self-preservation, ad nauseum. In fact the supporting cast is almost more interesting than the leads throughout, except for chefs Eddy and Gary (Michael Mulhern and Adam LeFevre) who continually try to counsel Tess on her relationships but often very perilously close to camp.
Which is the films one pitfall, it can't seem to make up its mind on what tone to strike, instead wandering about quite badly (particularly during the theoretically thrilling moments) between gritty, quite real danger and Bugs Bunny antics. It's impossible to tell just how seriously we're meant to take things. The film obviously wants to be acceptable to as a wide an audience as possible but it also wants to keep the element of danger as real as it can, and those two impulses seem to be at odds with each other. There are actually some funny moments in there, but they're not funny enough to overcome the disconnect in tone from moment to moment. Of course, the problem with trying to appeal to everyone is that you quickly appeal to no one. "Fool's Gold" doesn't quite have that problem but it gets closer than the filmmakers would probably like to.
"Fool's Gold" is a decently charming movie, not a bad couple of hours diversion (once anyway) especially if you come across it while channel surfing, but not much more.