Mike Cahill

First Look International

Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Allisyn Ashley Arm, Willis Burks, Greg Davis Jr.

KING OF CALIFORNIA: USA 2007, 35mm, color, English, PG 13, 93 min


With a crazed glint, a bushy beard and a firm desire to fly over his own cuckoo’s next, Michael Douglas gives one of his best performances ever as Charlie, the just-released mental patient at the core of the hilarious and heartfelt KING OF CALIFORNIA.

Back home after two years, Charlie becomes the unwanted responsibility of his sixteen-year-old daughter, Miranda (the ever-wonderful Evan Rachel Wood), who’s been getting by selling Big Macs. Now she’s being dragged into Dad’s scheme to find the seventeenth-century Spanish treasure he’s convinced is buried under the local Costco. In updating Shakespeare’s The Tempest, writer-director Mike Cahill focuses on the magic worth finding between a father and daughter. That’s why the film sticks with you. It’s a gift.

Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood give heartbreaking, hilarious performances as a modern-day Prospero (here called Charlie) and his daughter Miranda, trying in vain to make sense of the brave new world that has overtaken their old one. The Santa Clarita Valley, where both Charlie and Miranda grew up, is now altered beyond recognition by restaurant chains, big-box stores and ludicrous housing developments consisting of cheap, identical, faux baronial "estates." Charlie and Miranda live in a lovely but dilapidated old yellow Victorian once located in an orange grove. Charlie refused to sell to developers, and the house is now surrounded by McMansions.

Wood is wonderful as always -- smart, tough, tender and lost. But Douglas gives his best performance since "Wonder Boys" as a father trying to make up for a lifetime of mistakes in a single grand gesture and a soulful man furious and bereft at what has become of his home.