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"King of California"

Directed by Mike Cahill.
Written by Mike Cahill.
Starring Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood.
Release Year:  ?
Review Date:  1/30/07


Michael Douglas as a crazy old guy?  Evan Rachel Wood in a role where she is NOT sexed up or turning tricks?  A first-time writer/director?  For some reason, "King of California" mostly works and turns into a surprisingly-engaging father/daughter comedy, produced by the man that brought us "Sideways" and "About Schmidt."

When the film opens, we watch as 16-year-old Miranda (Wood, from "Thirteen") is working a double shift at her hometown McDonald's to make ends meet, because her mom has left and her dad is in the loony bin.  When her dad Charlie (Douglas) is released, Miranda must adjust to a new life where her dad has not been a part of her life for months and the two have to co-exist while he continues to sit at home pondering his future.  One day, she comes home to discover that Charlie has laid out materials to follow his newest scheme--while in the mental ward, Charlie learned about a possible pot of treasure located somewhere in the greater Santa Clarita area...and, he is going to move heaven and earth to try and find it himself.  Concerned but similarly intrigued by her father's newest ambition, Miranda decides to come along for the ride whenever she is not working at the Golden Arches...and, this newest search nearly bankrupts the family as Charlie follows his dream.  But, will it ultimately destroy the new bond between the two?

Douglas is fantastic; in a career long known as one where he can ably play the rich, the powerful, the professional, the gigantic, it's nice to see Douglas play against type for a whole film.  He just looks completely energized as a crazy man who will try to dig a hole in the local Costco to try and find buried treasure; Douglas is admittedly one of my faves but he's better here because he's just different, and it works.  Wood shows the promise she brought in "Thirteen"; as the foil for Charlie, her Miranda has a light touch and has the right kind of reactive energy to play well off of her co-star.  First-time novelist-turned-director Mike Cahill has a great script which mixes the laughs with the caper quite well, although certainly, it has a fair amount of fluff which populates its second half.  Still, "King of California" is a nice ride and should find some success whenever it reaches theaters.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09