- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2008

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘Fool’s Gold’

Rating: PG-13

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 14 and older.

** (out of five stars)

Running time: 110 minutes

Common Sense review: By romantic comedy standards, “Fool’s Gold” is actually more of a treasure-hunting action/adventure. Matthew McConaughey plays Finn, a laid-back surfer dude obsessed with finding a buried Spanish treasure off the coast of the Florida Keys. To do so, he has to get rich (and, in some cases, dangerous) patrons to fund his expeditions. Meanwhile, his wife, Tess (Kate Hudson), an amateur historian with academic ambitions, is sick of the endless hunt and is about to divorce her irresponsible, narrow-sighted husband.

The two collide when Finn manages to gain access to the yacht belonging to Tess’ employer, Nigel (Donald Sutherland), a multimillionaire with a shallow, tabloid-fodder daughter, Gemma (Alexis Dziena). Using Nigel’s money and equipment, the almost-exes go on one last mission to find the gold — if someone else doesn’t get there first.

Mr. McConaughey and Miss Hudson reuniting isn’t surprising, given the popularity of their successful 2003 romantic comedy “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” What’s unexpected is how little chemistry they have this time around; the romantic electricity evident in the best romantic comedies is nowhere to be found. (Even anti-beefcake Billy Crystal was much more romantic in “When Harry Met Sally.”) Instead, there are blatant, near-constant references to Finn’s “raw sexuality,” his “genius” at three things (“treasure hunting, finding money for treasure hunting and, um, well, you know”), and other obvious innuendos.

Speaking of Mr. McConaughey’s body, it should have received separate billing in the end credits. There are more shirtless scenes than not, making him one of the few leading men comfortable with emphasizing his physique over his talent as the main reason for his bankability. After the eighth or ninth scene of his tan shoulders, you start to wonder whether there’s any purpose to this film other than to be one long eye-candy shot for swooning women. That kind of overexposure proves distracting in both actresses and actors, and it diminishes this already-thin film to the level of thoughtless date-night fluff.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that with its likable, attractive stars, this romantic comedy is likely to appeal to teen girls and women in search of a little eye candy. But it isn’t just a romantic comedy, it’s also a treasure-hunting adventure that features a few unexpectedly violent scenes. In fact, there’s more violence than romance, which is limited to a couple of scenes of passionate kissing.

Families can talk about what kind of movie this is — a romantic comedy or an action/adventure. What do you expect from each kind of movie? What parts of the film “match” with each genre? Is the emphasis on Mr. McConaughey’s body — instead of Miss Hudson’s — a departure from most romantic comedies? What does that say about who the filmmakers are trying to target? Young filmgoers can be asked: If you had made this movie, would you have included as much violence and as little romance? Why?

Sexual content: Finn is almost always shirtless. Tess frequently mentions how good Finn is in bed and has a flashback to a library scene where you can hear them moaning but don’t see anything. In another scene, they kiss passionately and then fall to the floor, but there’s no actual love scene. Two characters discuss the power of Finn’s “raw sexuality.” Gemma is always in a revealing, tight outfit or bikini.

Language alert: The usual PG-13 suspects.

Violence alert: Finn is held at gunpoint and thrown tied to an anchor into the ocean. Several characters are shot at, and one dies from the shooting. Another character is taken hostage. Someone is pushed out of a flying helicopter into the ocean. Finn is punched in the face. A character dies in the water, which turns red.

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