Fool’s Gold

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It’s uncanny what an apt title “Fool’s Gold” is for this ludicrous mess of a movie. Fool’s gold, of course, is a shiny, worthless substance mistaken for gold. The movie by that name appears to be a romantic comedy (maybe even a good one!), but is actually a “National Treasure”-style adventure caper that happens to involve a bickering couple.

Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson have been down this road before, in 2003’s not-too-shabby “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” This time around they’ve skipped the romance and have even sailed past the marriage: As the film opens, they’re already planning to divorce.

It is Tess (Hudson) who wants to dissolve the union. Once intent on going to grad school, she fell in love with Finn (McConaughey) while on Spring Break in Florida — well, fell in love with his sexual prowess, anyway — then married him. That was eight years ago. Now she’s sick of Finn’s lazy surfer-dude Jack Johnson hakuna-matata mentality and wants out. She’s working as a steward on a rich guy’s yacht until the divorce is final, then taking her half of the couple’s assets and going back to Chicago.

Finn, a simple creature (McConaughey appears to be playing himself), cannot for the life of him understand why Tess wants to leave him. After all, isn’t the sex great? He is a treasure hunter by trade, obsessively searching the Caribbean for lost Spanish galleons and the like, and he and Tess had some fun adventures in that field.

His current obsession is a ship that disappeared in 1715, whose riches he is convinced are just waiting to be discovered off the Florida Keys. He has irritated his latest investor, a rapper named Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart), and must now 1) hide from him, 2) find another source of money, and 3) find the treasure.

Through a series of events too stupid to think about, Finn winds up on the very same yacht that Tess works on. The owner is Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland), an affable British multi-millionaire whose daughter — a hard-partying, heavy-shopping, ultra-stupid, bony-chested young woman named Gemma (Alexis Dziena) — is onboard, too, and smitten with Finn. Somehow Finn convinces Tess to join him on the treasure hunt, and somehow they convince Nigel to back them, and somehow a lot of other ridiculous things happen.

Director Andy Tennant, no stranger to chick flicks and rom-coms (“Anna and the King,” “Ever After,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Hitch”), here downplays the romance angle in favor of find-the-treasure skulduggery. Finn and Tess fight in a perfunctory manner, then reconcile in the same perfunctory manner, with no life to any of it beyond the basic movie-star wattage that Hudson and McConaughey bring to the table. The screenplay, by “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid” scribes John Claflin and Daniel Zelman with an assist by Tennant, is content to be lazy as far as the Tess/Finn dynamic goes.

But putting the emphasis on the story’s adventure aspects doesn’t help, because the adventure aspects are silly. People and things fly around cartoonishly, and the abundant slapstick violence often lands uncomfortably in the middle ground between funny and painful-looking. (A bad guy gets shots in the foot. Ha-ha — wait, that looks like it really, really hurts.)

When the film tries to be funny, it generally isn’t. Most of the time it’s barely even trying. The treasure-hunting is unimaginative and not outrageously dumb enough to be the “National Treasure” kind of fun. The stuff with Finn and Tess (and Gemma, who proves fairly irrelevant, as do several other characters) is below average. It’s a flat, listless movie all the way around, the kind where you know exactly how every scene will end the moment it begins.

D (1 hr., 53 min.; PG-13, a little profanity, a glimpse of nudity, brief strong violence (stronger than you'd expect).)

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