‘King of California’: King-size failure

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, September 27, 2007 4:47pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

“The King of California” garnered acclaim in script form, and you can see how it might be a good read: quirky characters, a couple of vivid roles for actors, and a magical ending.

But a script is not a movie, and “King” is not a success. What might have been charming on the page looks forced on screen, and in the hands of a first-time director the whimsy falls flat.

The film does offer a meaty role to a pointy-bearded Michael Douglas, who looks like a Spanish conquistador, or possibly a refugee from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He plays a man recently released from a stay in a psychiatric institution, who returns home to his 16-year-old daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

She’s learned to take care of herself, so when dad hatches his latest scheme, she figures it will blow over. A funny old geezer with a metal detector. No harm done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

He’s convinced that a cache of Spanish gold is buried near the family home, which is sunk into a featureless piece of California development. The gold might be located directly beneath the big Costco, in fact, which will make it difficult — but not impossible — to retrieve.

This quixotic quest takes up the entire movie, although we are also supposed to notice that father and daughter are sorting out their relationship along the way. Few other characters intrude.

Mike Cahill wrote the screenplay, and perhaps in the hands of a savvy director this might have had more snap, and the performances more focus. I really wanted to enjoy Michael Douglas in this role, which is the kind of stretch he hasn’t had at least since “Wonder Boys,” arguably his best work.

But the part is tiresome, and it’s hard to get much nuance into it. Evan Rachel Wood, late of “Across the Universe,” ably employs a deadpan against Douglas’ more florid performance. Even though she narrates the movie, copiously at first, she doesn’t come across with much of a character.

The quirky score, by David Robbins, is a plus; it evokes (I assume intentionally) the music from “Cuckoo’s Nest,” a film Douglas produced. Ultimately, though, this is one of those movies that wants to convince you that if you only “believe,” everything will work out for the best. I didn’t believe it.

Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood star in “The King of California.”

Talk to us

More in Life

Daniella Beccaria / for The Herald

15-month-old Kantu attempts to climb a pumpkin at Stocker Farms in Snohomish on Sunday, September 20th, 2015. Stocker Farms offers a U-pick patch, farm animals and a corn maze.
Best pumpkin patch in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied, here are the results.

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay walks into the Prohibition Grille along Hewitt Avenue in Everett Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012 while reportedly filming an episode of Kitchen Nightmares at the Everett restaurant. (Mark Mulligan / The Herald)
Even more films and TV shows filmed in Snohomish County

Readers point out projects previously missed in this series, from reality television to low-budget indie films.

Everett comedian Taylor Clark performs stand-up in 2023 at The Triple Door in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Mike Bryk)
Comedian Taylor Clark to film first special Friday in Everett

The skateboarding funny-man will record an hour of his stand-up at the Historic Everett Theater.

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Death of parent with child. Piece of paper with parents and children is torn in half.
Helping children cope with the hard realities of divorce

I’s important to set aside one’s feelings and find a way to make this challenging transition as comfortable for children as you can.

In Belgium, each type of beer has its own glass – whether wide, tall, or fluted – to show off its distinct qualities.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bruges brews lift a weary traveler’s spirits

The Belgian city is a mecca for beer lovers from around the world.

Children’s author Barbara Herkert to lead Story Time at Edmonds Bookshop, Friday September 29th, 9:30-10:00 am!
Author to read her new kids book at Edmonds bookstore

Author Barbara Herkert will read “This Old Madrone Tree” Friday at Edmonds Bookshop.

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

A view of King Street Station in Seattle, Washington from an Amtrak Cascades train to Portland, Oregon from Everett, Washington on Wednesday, May 24, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Ride the rails on Amtrak Cascades from Everett to Portland

Make new friends and let Amtrak do the driving on this 5-hour trip past sea, city and forest.

Most Read