Wednesday, January 16, 2008

King of California

Arriving on DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray on January 29th is this offbeat indie comedy starring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood. I was excited to review it, since I missed it when it was out in theaters. It has a promising premise: Charlie, a recently released mental patient convinces his prematurely responsible teenage daughter Miranda to join him on a quest for treasure--Spanish gold he believes to be buried under a local Costco.

Unfortunately the film doesn't quite live up to its great concept. The role reversals of dutiful, reliable Miranda vs. her mad-cap (or perhaps just plain MAD) father Charlie aren't drawn very well. In fact, Miranda and Charlie barely seem to be related--much less father/daughter. Too much voiceover and the character development takes place mostly in flashbacks rather than real time. The film is barely 90 minutes long, yet plods in places and stumbles and stalls in others.

But there are things to recommend it--Michael Douglas' performance as the bipolar Don Quixote-like Charlie is wonderful. A far stretch from the cold, calculating Gordon Gekko of Wall Street, Charlie is warm and fuzzy. Literally. That wild beard Douglas sports deserves a screen credit of its own. Charlie is a force of nature--fiercely opinionated, wildly optimistic and dreamily delusional. And Miranda comes to realize that while he may not always be right, he's not always wrong either. Written and directed by newcomer Mike Cahill with Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) as one of the producers, King of California is sweetly satisfying--even if it doesn't quite live up to its potential. The tagline for the movie is "We're all searching for something."

Ain't that the truth...

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