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Originally published September 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 28, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Movie review

"King of California" | Her father's keeper

With a crazy shock of hair and scraggly beard that are artfully styled to look like he's been cutting them himself all his life, Michael...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 2.5 stars

"King of California" with Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Willis Burks II. Written and directed by Mike Cahill. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some strong language, mature thematic elements and brief drug references. Metro.

With a crazy shock of hair and scraggly beard that are artfully styled to look like he's been cutting them himself all his life, Michael Douglas gives a cuckoo performance as Charlie, a bipolar father just out of the psych ward and back in the care of his 16-year-old daughter (Evan Rachel Wood). The manic energy in Charlie's eyes contrasts directly with the loving exasperation in his daughter's as he takes her on a wild-goose chase across the strip malls of suburban California.

Actually it's a wild gold chase with a chest of Spanish doubloons as the booty on a treasure map he's meticulously researched from the diary of a 17th-century conquistador's expedition. Unfortunately, the area of Santa Clarita that used to be untamed wilds is now covered with Chuck E. Cheeses and Targets. Even worse, they discover that X marks the spot smack in the middle of one of the hardware aisles at Costco.

Douglas plays Charlie as a classic dreamer who won't give up (unless his meds wear off), and it's one of his stronger performances. Better is the delightful Wood as Miranda, who takes care of herself and her dad with sensible authority even as he's selling her some of his best lines. That she sticks with him is entirely believable even as the movie turns entirely absurd. This is a strong effort by first time writer/director Mike Cahill that will keep you bemused for its idiosyncratic voice.

Ted Fry: tedfry@hotmail.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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