- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

It doesn’t take a veteran prospector to recognize the makeup of “Fool’s Gold” from miles away. In fact, anyone who isn’t totally blinded by the sun gleaming off star Matthew McConaughey’s bare chest can see that this is one schlocky, formulaic romantic comedy and that it relies almost exclusively on star power and a near-Valentine’s Day delivery date to pack ‘em in.

Hopefully, audiences are smart enough to realize that all that glitters isn’t gold.

Directed and co-written by Andy Tennant (“Hitch,” “Ever After”), the film reunites Mr. McConaughey with his “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” co-star, Kate Hudson, and, yet again, they’re cast as squabbling lovers. He plays Finn, a bumbling but oh-so-hot fellow who’s obsessed with finding the centuries-old Spanish treasure hidden beneath the sea in the Florida Keys; she plays Tess, the capricious cutie who dropped out of college when she met and married him, but who split when she realized she was his second priority.

Now, Tess is working as a steward on a yacht owned by the obscenely wealthy Nigel Honeycutt (Donald Sutherland). Finn has ruined her credit, so her career options are limited. She’s dead-set on divorce, but her ex has other plans — as well as some new undersea discoveries that may lure Tess back in. (Duh — this is a romantic comedy, after all.)

Besides Mr. McConaughey’s finely chiseled form and some bejeweled props, there are few treasures in store here. There are, however, heaps of characters so stereotypical they’ll make your eyes glaze over: a big, bad rapper who owns one of the islands; his dense, Jamaican sidekick with a laughable accent; Nigel’s bimbo daughter, who makes “Clueless’ ” Cher seem like Mother Teresa and Meryl Streep rolled into one; the boat’s male chefs, a ridiculously cartoonish same-sex couple; and so forth.

The unchecked, over-the-top acting compounds the effect, yet it’s probably hard to stay focused when you’re firing a gun underwater (impossible) or leaping out of a power boat to retrieve a woman’s lost hat (ludicrous). “Baywatch” had stronger writing than this — not to mention stronger female protagonists.

Not even Mr. Sutherland can salvage the wreckage — but viewers might be able to save Valentine’s Day as well as $9.50 by avoiding this fine mess.

*

TITLE: “Fool’s Gold”

RATING: PG-13 (for action violence, some sexual material, brief nudity and language)

CREDITS: Directed by Andy Tennant. Written by John Claflin, Daniel Zelman and Mr. Tennant.

RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes

WEB SITE: www.foolsgoldmovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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