An obsessed man's search for buried gold leads to a treasured performance by Michael Douglas.
The spirit of Don Quixote is alive and flourishing in "The King of California," a disarming shaggy dog of a comedy about a man who is crazy enough to actually be sane -- maybe.
Michael Douglas stars as Charlie, a former mental hospital patient who is convinced that he has unraveled the clues leading to gold that was buried by a 17th-century Spanish explorer. There's only one small problem: By his calculations, the treasure is buried underneath a Costco store.
Most people would consider that an insurmountable problem, starting with Charlie's teenage daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood, whose "Across the Universe" opened last week). Despite the difference in their ages, Miranda is the grown-up one of the pair.
But there are no insurmountable problems in Charlie's world, which we learn in the opening scene. Charlie, Miranda and Charlie's buddy Pepper (character actor Willis Burks II) break into the Costco in the middle of the night. Miranda panics when the burglar alarm goes off, but Charlie reassures her that everything is under control. We don't believe him for a second, but, somehow, she does.
The narrative flashes back to show how Charlie and Miranda got to that point, both in terms of the break-in and her seemingly misplaced faith in him. With boundless energy and a perpetually bubbly outlook, he's so enthusiastic that soon he's even got us buying into his theory. OK, maybe we don't fully believe it, but we want to believe it, which is pretty much the same thing.
The film is the work of first-time writer/director Mike Cahill. While the project certainly has its clever aspects, the bulk of the credit goes to Douglas. Without his ultra-charming portrayal of Charlie, this thing would fall apart within minutes. He's the real treasure in "The King of California."
Jeff Strickler 612-673-7392