At age sixteen, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) has already
been abandoned by her mother, dropped out of school and has
been supporting herself as an employee at McDonald's while
her father Charlie (Michael Douglas) resides in a mental institution.
Charlie is released and sent back to their home, the relatively
peaceful existence Miranda’s built for herself becomes
completely disrupted. Charlie has become obsessed with the
notion that a long-lost Spanish treasure is buried underneath
their local suburban California Costco.
sceptical, Miranda soon finds herself joining in Charlie’s
questionable antics in an effort to give him one last shot
at accomplishing his dreams in this darkly funny, exciting
and surprisingly hopeful take on the modern family and the
Academy Award winner Michael Douglas often plays successful
business executives and political figures. Think The American
President (1995) and Traffic (2000). However did director
Mike Cahill manage to turn the established actor into a disheveled,
scruffy and unkempt resident of a mental institution? That
alone deserves some recognition. Acting serious has always
been Douglas’s signature, but acting loony? Check it
out in this movie which never made it to our local theatres.
plays father figure to Evan Rachel Wood (Across the Universe),
and his life is as shabby and tattered as he looks. Just released
from the mental institution, he and his daughter go on an
adventure to find an ancient Spanish treasure. The problem
is, the girl isn’t exactly on the best terms with her
father. You wouldn’t too, if you were abandoned by your
mother and had to work in a fast food restaurant while your
father is locked up in the mental institution.
plot may sound ridiculous, but thanks to its quirky approach,
you go along for the ride to find that mysterious treasure.
You’ll enjoy the use of voiceovers to narrate the story,
you’ll enjoy the constant use of effective flashbacks
to explain the plot, and you’d enjoy every bit of neuroticism
displayed by Douglas and every bit of charm exuded by Rachel
veteran status is evident here as the experienced actor plays
his character with gusto, energy and fervor. Rachel Wood’s
appealing charisma is spiritedly sweet without having you
think that she is just another pretty actress with no depth.
Couple that with newcomer director Cahill’s witty scripting,
and you get a father daughter pairing with such good chemistry,
it’s enjoyably fun to watch.
93 minute comedy has an indie feel to it (that’s probably
why no local distributor wanted to release it here), and beneath
the wackiness and craziness, there is a meaningful message
about family ties. And this is all it takes to make this film
recommended for one of those family get togethers where you
crowd around the television set with your rarely seen relatives
and distant family members. Everyone will be entertained and
realize the importance of closely knitted familial relationships.
This Code 1 disc contains a “Commentary Audio
with Writer/ Director Mike Cahill, Cinematographer Jim Whitaker,
Production Designer Dan Bishop and First Assistant Director
Richard L. Fox” where you hear how the film
did not have enough budget to buy guns and dogs which were
originally in the script, and how a certain fast food restaurant
suggested a line to the filmmakers which made it to the final
version of the film. “The Making of King of
California” is a 10 minute featurette where
you hear the cast and crew talk about the film. Douglas says
that the script is one of the best he has ever seen because
it is “magical”, while Rachel Wood says that it
has “heart”. There are also five minutes of
“Outtakes” and a “Theatrical
Trailer”, as well as other features available
distributed by this DVD label.
disc’s remarkable visual transfer makes the vast landscapes
look beautiful, and the film is can be presented in its English
5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, English DTS or English 2.0 Stereo.
Review by John Li