In 2003 the paper-thin romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days paired Matthew McConaughey with Kate Hudson and made over 100 million dollars. The rules of Hollywood economics, plus the overwhelming dictates of focus groups and researchers, meant they would have to be reunited. So, as soon as Hudson’s baby-body was fit to be seen in a tiny bikini, they were off to the Bahamas to make Fool’s Gold, a buried treasure adventure set among the rich and beautiful.
McConaughey plays “Finn” Finnegan, a treasure hunter, and Hudson his soon-to-be ex-wife. She’s divorcing him because she’s a tight-ass and wants to finish her PhD. He is hopelessly in debt to hip-hop superstar Bigg Bunny who has been funding his search for lost Spanish gold. When he discovers a dinner plate sized clue he suckers Hudson and super yacht owner Donald Sutherland into joining the search, despite the violent attentions of Mr Bunny and competition from dodgy accented Ray Winstone.
Matthew McConaughey isn’t the laziest of our male Hollywood stars (Nic Cage takes that prize) but he has coasted for an enormous amount of time on what some might see as charm alone. Fool’s Gold doesn’t change that approach and your enjoyment will depend entirely on how much you appreciate McConaughey’s charisma as there isn’t much else to enjoy. Despite the Caribbean setting all the black characters are either villains or buffoons or both, Bigg Bunny (Kevin Hart) alone manages to supply two objectionable stereotypes at once. I hope that isn’t the result of a Hollywood focus group.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story tells a heart-rending, and repairing, story of tragedy and redemption in the music business. Inspired by classy bio-pics like Walk the Line and Ray (and even La Vie En Rose, probably), Walk Hard stars perennial sidekick John C. Reilly as the eponymous Dewey, dumber than a sack of hammers but with a heart of lead, as he overcomes the tragic death of his brother in a machete accident (“the wrong kid died”, says his stone-faced father at every opportunity), the loss of his sense of smell and addiction to every substance on the planet short of cinnamon.
Films like Walk Hard are always hit and miss affairs and this one runs about 50–50. The targets are pretty soft, however, and I’d hoped that a writing team that includes Judd (Knocked Up) Apatow might have aimed a little higher. The best things in the film are the songs, well sung by the talented Reilly: my favourite is the 60s pro-midget protest song “Let Me Hold You, Little Man”.
It’s very hard to focus on a film when you spend most of it shaking your head in disbelief. Air Guitar Nation is a documentary following the first two American contenders in the well-established World Air Guitar Championship in Finland. The Yanks may have invented Rock but they have come second to the Air Guitar party, struggling with the more high-level concepts (“You can’t hold a gun, if you’ve got an air guitar in your hand”) and the serious intent of the Northern Europeans. But they do have old-fashioned showmanship on their side. Diverting.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 13 February, 2008.