Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Sixteen-year-old Miranda (played by Evan Rachel Wood) has been taking care of herself for years. Her father Charlie (Michael Douglas) spends his time in and out of mental institutions, while her mother disappeared a long time ago. Miranda manages to make ends meet by working at McDonald’s, and evades social services because of paperwork snafus that make it look like she’s always with one parent or the other.
Miranda’s calm existence changes when Charlie gets released from his latest stint in a hospital. Not only does he disrupt her daily routine, but she also has to babysit him to ensure he doesn’t get into trouble. This proves difficult, as he is currently convinced that there’s a big cache of treasure buried somewhere in the vicinity by a long-dead Spanish explorer named Father Juan Florismarte Torres. While in the hospital, Charlie came across some books detailing Torres’s exploits. He now takes it upon himself to find the treasure.
Charlie manages to get hold of various surveying equipment, and traces the treasure’s location to a specific spot. The problem is that it’s buried about six feet under a Costco. This doesn’t faze Charlie, however. Instead of giving up as a rational person would do, he convinces Miranda to get a job there so she can learn about the alarms and security practices, as well as steal a master key from the manager. This accomplished, the two enlist the help of Pepper (Willis Burks II), an old band mate of Charlie’s, and they move in for the digging.
Charlie digs through the floor, only to come upon what Miranda thinks is the foul-smelling sewer line. But Charlie is sure this is a sulfur river, not the sewer line, which means he’s on the right track. He appropriates some scuba gear from the back of Costco, and dives in. After a while, he comes back to say he did indeed find the treasure. Unfortunately, while he was under, the cops finally realize what’s going on inside and close in on the dig.
Charlie manages to make it look like Miranda was dragged in against her will. He ties her up, gives her a product ticket from the store, and goes away. He then dives back into the river to try to get to the rest of the treasure — but his body is never recovered. The next day, Miranda purchases the item from the ticket Charlie gave her (it was a dishwasher she had her eye on) and discovers that he had managed to hide some of the gold in there for her.
- I thought this was a very sweet film. I wasn’t expecting Charlie to actually find the gold, and though that outcome was definitely far-fetched, I thought it fit with the overall tenor of the story. I was glad that Miranda was able to get her happy ending, even if Charlie couldn’t be around to enjoy it with her.
- Miranda was a likable character. I think teens in movies are the hardest characters to pull off, because they either come across as too much of a know-it-all, or they’re just bratty, snotty, and selfish. Evan Rachel Wood did a good job of playing Miranda as a world-weary “adult” who has been taking care of herself, while at the same time being a kid who desperately wants her father to take care of her for a change.
- Michael Douglas wasn’t as annoying as I thought he would be. I’m not gonna lie: the previews for this movie had me wondering if I would be able to stomach the Douglas character, with his wild eyes and unkempt beard, for an hour and a half. Turns out this character was far more understated than I expected, and was actually rather sympathetic as well.
- I thought it was believable how Miranda ended up helping Charlie. At first, she allowed herself to believe in the treasure just a little bit. It was a lark that gave her a way to escape the monotony of her life. But as she saw how serious Charlie was about it, she started to rein in her own enthusiasm and look at the whole thing from a more logical perspective. She “knew” there wasn’t any treasure out there, but she continued to play along and humor Charlie. Then we had her reaction at the end, when she realized that Charlie was actually correct. I thought this was a wonderful character arc.
- If Costco security really is as lax as portrayed in this movie, I’m surprised we don’t hear about their warehouses being robbed on a regular basis! Come on, now… it was FAR too easy for these guys to get in and dig through the friggin’ concrete floor!!! Fortunately, this didn’t dilute my enjoyment of the film.
I thought King of California was a very sweet, touching film. I loved seeing the different nuances of Charlie and Miranda’s relationship, liked watching these characters pursue their goals, and enjoyed the happy ending. I give it 4 stars out of 5.