Wasting a treasure hunt story is like a teenage
boy with a wheelchair blowing the best excuse he'll ever have
to get pretty girls to rub up against him. Sure, the kid won't
get laid, but he can ham it up and get cheerleaders to give
him busty hugs, at which time he can feel them up and, if called
on it, pretend he is also retarded. I guarantee you, no women
will ever slap you for copping a feel if you're drooling and
have leg braces on. Trust my experience on this one.
King of California is in a wheelchair,
shitting its pants and not even a clothed nipple rubbed against
its face for a reward. What an indie turd, from a huge indie
ass, sprinkled with kernels of corn like Michael Douglas playing
a supposedly nuts father, and Evan Rachel Wood playing a clearly
dull daughter. The movie wants to be a treasure hunt, and it
wants to be some sort of fuckass, wimpy father-daughter bonding
movie. First, the two themes go together like chocolate and
ketchup. Second, writer/director Mike Cahill fucks up both halves.
This flick feels like a bad short story from the Atlantic
The movie opens with a shitload of voiceover
by Wood explaining how her dad's in an asylum and the mom ran
out, so she's a teenager holding down the house. While in the
loony bin, Douglas determines that some 17th century missionary
left a stash of gold in the hills of Santa Clarita. Meanwhile,
Wood has dropped out of high school, took a job at McDonald's
and watched cookie-cutter subdivisions rise on every side of
her ramshackled house.
When freed from the asylum, Douglas starts digging
around, obsessed with finding the buried gold dubloons, deep
under the concrete of modern suburbia. This is the first squandered
opportunity of the movie. Everywhere it goes, it shows us generified
monoliths of modern society, like McDonalds, Costco and Applebees.
It could make a statement about how much beautiful and interesting
history is smothered below all this bland shit, or how there
can still be adventure among big box stores, but it doesn't.
Instead, King of California looks like it's advertising
every major brand name by showing their marquees in glowing
light in just about every fucking scene.
Story one has Wood occasionally telling her
dad that he needs to pull his weight and stop dreaming about
this gold. His chase is crazy talk, she says. She calls him
by his first name and he wants her to call him Dad. They bicker
at a level of energy so low it wouldn't light a fluorescent
bulb. He wanders around in his underwear. Early on, the movie
wants to lead us toward thinking that may be his is crazy. First,
he talks about naked Chinese washing ashore. Second he sees
a bobcat in their kitchen. But, of course, and as expected,
both incidents are explained as real and so, maybe he isn't
Anyway, without much conflict at all, Wood decides
her father is right and joins him in his treasure hunt. She
finally calls him dad and learns that, really. he was thinking
of her all along. It's not only the obvious way it could happen,
it's done with so little tension or fanfare that I gave a little
bit less than a rat's ass. I mean, really, how else do these
stories ever end?
As for the treasure hunt: what a fucking crock.
This part is so boring I found myself trying to see how wide
I could flare my nostrils. The father and daughter encounter
no obstacles, they aren't racing anyone else to reach it. They
just move from point to point following their treasure map until
they find it. It's buried under the Costco, so Wood gets a job
there. Will someone please tell me why the fuck she was working
at McDonald's if she could get a job at Costco on her first
application? Don't they pay, like, crazy good for a warehouse
job? Like, almost enough to live on?
Regardless, the quest for gold is unimpeded
until it is found. Then, of course, there is trouble, in the
form of police who aren't cool about them digging up a store's
What fucking burned my foreskin like a bad case
of syphilis about this pile of shit are two things. First, there
is so much boring fucking detail about the treasure hunt. They
survey and rent heavy equipment to find pottery shards, and
we have to listen to passages of some missionaries journal.
None of it enlightens the adventure. It's all just busy detail,
much like what I give Mrs. Filthy when I am stalling to think
of a good reason why I came home at five a.m. with bite marks
on my chin and a wet rash on my forehead (hint: don't fall asleep
in a bush where hoary bats live. Brown bats, maybe.).
The second thing is how fucking sloppy the King
of California is. for as much detail as it presents when
it should be presenting story, it just slacks on so much shit.
Douglas sells Wood's car, yet a few scenes later, it is back.
Presumably, it has been bought back, but we never see that.
In another scene, the house is foreclosed because Douglas says
he hasn't kept up on the second and third mortgages. What the
fuck? Why did the movie belabor that he was in an asylum and
Wood has managed the finances and kept everything afloat? How
the fuck could she not know the mortgage was overdue?
At the end of the movie, Wood and Douglas break
into the Costco at night and drill a hole in the floor to get
to the treasure. Nevermind that we're supposed to believe a
Costco would be built where there is an underwater river four
feet directly below. When the cops catch up to them, Douglas
makes it look like Wood was kidnapped and tied up. He hides
the gold in a dishwasher. The next day, Wood goes back to the
store and buys that dishwasher. What the fuck? Like that wouldn't
raise a few eyebrows? And exactly how much do the filmmakers
think a crate of gold coins weigh? Hundreds of pounds, actually.
Not the fifty they make it out to be.
Sure, this shit is the details, but it pisses
the fuck out of me when moviemakers are so presumptuous about
the genius of their story that they just wash out the details
they don't want to deal with. It's annoying, like sand in my
tighty-whiteys, especially when the director botches the story,
and doesn't have much of a point to begin with. My pissed-offedness
is further enhanced by the fact that Cahill provides details
about other, irrelevant shit, but glosses over this stuff.
Wood doesn't have much to do, so she doesn't.
Her acting is nearly catatonic and as dull as a knife made of
piss. Douglas acts crazy, crazy like ham from a diseased pig.
He has a big beard, because nutsy people usually do. He talks
to himself and acts sort of fervent. But there is not a God
damn, fucking thing in this script that illuminates how he is
supposed to be nuts.
What a bunch of horse ass. A load this big is
usually found at the loading door of a Jack in the Box, not
in a movie theater. Way to go, Cahill. Way to completely fuck
up a chance to tell a modern day treasure hunt story. Two
Fingers for King of California.