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By Zack Haddad | September 16, 2007

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Michael Douglas is an aging, pot-smoking dreamer who just can’t let go of something that seems completely unattainable. No, this isn’t the pitch for Curtis Hanson’s 2000 film, “Wonder Boys,” instead this is the premise for Mike Cahill’s witty film “King of California.”

“King of California” is the story of fifteen year old Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood), whose father Charley (Michael Douglas) comes home after a two-year stint in a mental institution. Obviously still off-balanced, Charley takes Miranda with him on an insane and unrealistic adventure to find 16th Century gold in California.

The journey they take through the film to find the treasure is quite preposterous, and the entire film can be accused of trying way too hard at being witty and original (“Bottle Rocket” did this dry wit and lunacy better). Still, the movie has its fun moments. Michael Douglas, with his giant crazy man stare and beard to match, is quite funny when he tries to pick up on a female cop who is more than ready to arrest him.

The film has a great visual style and manages to show Los Angeles in a fresh way that the average Hollywood eye isn’t used to, while, on the acting front, Evan Rachel Wood surpasses Michael Douglas in most scenes, solidifying herself as an actor to look out for. Unfortunately, even Wood’s brilliance isn’t enough to carry the mediocrity of the rest of the film.

Before I even saw this movie, I was ready to love it. I thought it was going to be a huge success, based on my feelings for “Wonder Boys.” Maybe next time I’ll check my expectations at the door, for I was quite disappointed with the execution of this film. I enjoy Michael Douglas and his crazy beard, it is just too bad that this feels so recycled.

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