One man’s shopping center is another man’s treasure

A buried treasure lies just across the street beneath Wal-Mart’s floor.

OK, not really, but Wal-Mart has Cadbury Mini Eggs on sale, and those are worth their weight in gold. Remember: "When Easter’s gone, they’re gone."

King of California, which was recently released on DVD, monkeys with similar shenanigans. An explorer named Father Torres led a 17th century expedition whose cache of "doubloons" (Spanish gold coins) happens to still be located underneath what is now a Santa Clarita Costco.

At least, so says Charlie (Michael Douglas), who learned of this legend online while living in a mental institution.

Charlie’s independent, 16-year-old daughter, Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood), has little patience for her father’s eccentricity; nevertheless, her narration confides to us, "Parents have this advantage over us: We want to believe in them; and when we don’t believe in them, we just want to be with them."

The charismatic father lures his leery daughter and his old, Jazz-combo buddy, Pepper (Willis Burks II), into his treasure hunt.

At one point, when Charlie unearths some pottery shards believed to belong to the expedition, he tells his daughter, "Put that in your hands, and feel how old that is."

We know from the opening scenes where all this is leading: Inevitably, at some point in the film, the gold diggers will attempt to exhume the loot (which we’re not sure exists) from Costco. Imagine executing a heist like that.

Michael Douglas pulls off insanity almost as well as Jack Nicholson does. See Douglas in Falling Down (1993), where he plays a distraught dad who snaps one day and unleashes his Id upon society’s irritants.

King of California yields a quirky metaphor for how colossal superstores are like geese, sitting upon golden eggs, which are otherwise inaccessible to little guys like us.

By way of contrast, Miranda’s allegiance to her McDonald’s job cannot afford her a dishwasher (the only thing she really wants), while Charlie’s obsession is to swipe the discount leviathan’s "dirty" money. Like most who grow rich from corporations, Charlie hopes to "get in at the ground level."

Meanwhile, product placement and shameless advertising abound. Charlie says of Costco, "This place has everything!"

King of California is an OK comedic caper. It is Mike Cahill’s directorial debut and a promising sign of his potential. The movie’s PG-13 rating pushes the envelope with three "F-words" (not Fresno), and a benign gathering of middle-age swingers.

UVSC has an actual, semiburied treasure within its walls. Look in the Sorensen Center, across from the bookstore, near Scoops; there sits a brick box, a veritable time capsule, built in 1993 to be opened in 2093, as the inscription reads, "to provide insights into our lives." Too bad we have to wait 85 years for those insights.

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