by MARYANN JOHANSON & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & ovies go wrong. It happens. Sometimes things just don't click. Everyone tries their darnedest and does their best, but the magic just isn't there. This is forgivable. Regrettable, but forgivable.

And then there are movies, like Fool's Gold, in which absolutely "everything" goes wrong. Not one single element works. Not one single element seems even calculated to have worked in the first place. Every single wrongheaded element ends up working together only in an apparent attempt to force you to claw your own eyes out, and perhaps pop your own eardrums, so that the torture of experiencing it will end.

I can't imagine why on Earth anyone would want a movie to fail so spectacularly on every level -- perhaps there's some sort of tax shelter thing involved, or a "Springtime for Hitler" scam scenario -- but here it is. "Springtime for Hitler" and Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. "Winter for Poland and France" and everywhere else they have movie theaters.

A big mystery for me is why either McConaughey or Hudson are even in movies at all. She's got the nepotism thing going, of course: her mother is Goldie Hawn, though her startling resemblance to her mother should tip you off to that if you didn't already know. Too bad she doesn't share her mother's bubbly charm. But McConaughey is simply one of the most ickily unappealing men ever to be foisted onto us poor audiences as a movie star. Why they've been thrown together not once but twice now -- How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, as agonizing a cinematic experience as it is, doesn't even approach the pain of this one -- is an even bigger mystery. It's like squeaky chalk on a board watching either of them -- especially him -- separately. And it's worse seeing them together as, we are told, one of those couples who are so crazy mad in love with each other, so driven 'round the bend by their mutual lust, that their passion manifests itself as pseudo-hatred, until the third act when they'll simply "have to" reconcile and get together again.

Here, they are divorcing spouses, formerly a team of treasure hunters -- he did the diving, she did the library research, except when, you know, he had to be there in the stacks with her so they could have some crazy library sex. But now he's made a new discovery in their longtime search for a lost 18th-century hoard of gold and jewelry and such, and he needs her help to find it, even though she's just divorced him and whacked him across the head with a blunt object.

Fool's Gold is such a bizarre amalgam of forced cartoonishness and schmaltzy sentimentality that I feel compelled to come to the defense of McConaughey and say that even though he probably deserves a metaphorical whack to the noggin, the viciousness with which Hudson's Tess delivers that cruel blow to his Finn, which comes early in the film, instantly negates any sympathy she is supposed to be earning from us. We don't like Finn, either, so now we're on even footing with them, hating both as they embark on their charmless adventure across the Caribbean in search of sunken Spanish riches.

Call it How to Lose a Guy in Six Days, Seven Nights. This is what you get when the two guys who wrote Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid and something called They Nest team up with the director who vomited up Hitch, one of the phoniest movies about love and relationships ever excreted.

Look: There are awful, belabored running jokes about how supposedly amazing in bed Finn is, and others about the vast vapidity of a Paris Hilton-type heiress who's one of their patrons. And as if the "jokes" themselves weren't bad enough, director Andy Tennant lets the film pause after each of them, as if he's waiting for laughter from the audience to subside. So there are long awkward silent moments that add to the movie's already absurd running time, which feels like about four hours. There are entire casts of unnecessary characters -- like the gangsta rapper to whom Finn owes money, and his posse, and a couple of gay chefs whose entire purpose seems to be to drool over Finn in an apparent attempt to convince us that McConaughey really is worth the fuss. There are ridiculous coincidences riddling the plot that could have been fixed with some simple but clever screenwriting.

But clever seems to be off the agenda here. Tennant clearly believes his audience is mentally retarded -- this is a theme running throughout almost the entire slate of wide releases so far in 2008 -- for he allows Finn to repeat the history of the lost Spanish treasure that we'd already gotten in some quick placards as the film opened. Perhaps Tennant feared we'd gone mad between the opening credits and Finn's explanation, and forgotten all about it. Madness certainly would have made the movie more enjoyable.

Palouse Cult Film Revival: Little Shop of Horrors @ The Kenworthy

Wed., Feb. 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
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Maryann Johanson

Maryann Johanson