Friday, August 19, 2016
ROMANCING THE STONE
(March 1984, U.S.)
It's hard for me to believe that ROMANCING THE STONE actually opened in the early part of the spring of 1984, because I managed to see it (twice) well into that summer during its second run. Just goes to show that popular movies managed to stay in theaters a whole lot longer than they do today. I recall my first impression of the film, judging solely by the content of the movie poster, that it was nothing more than some shameless ripoff of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Hell, I didn't even really know who Robert Zemeckis was (yet). The film ended up being just one of those afternoons with my parents during the summer when the weather wasn't too good and we were all just in the mood for a movie to pass some of the time (and later as a second viewing while I was a CIT at sleepaway camp). Needless, to say, it all ended up being a pleasant surprise.
I was to discover first that despite the poster's art work and the adventurous content of the film, it was all more about dialogue, humor and a wonderful chemistry between its two stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner (they'd go on to make a disappointing sequel THE JEWEL OF THE NILE and a great film about marital hate called THE WAR OF THE ROSES). Joan Wilder (Turner) is a lonely New York City romance novelist (you know, those cheesy books that made a beefy guy like Fabio a star in the 1990s) who believes in the idea of a romantic hero like in one of her books. Her sister, Elaine, has been kidnapped by rather oafish antiquities smugglers (one of them played by Danny DeVito) in Columbia, South America and it's up to Joan to save her by bringing a mysterious treasure map she recently received by mail to Columbia as ransom. Joan is as up to a task like this as say...I would be! Upon arrival, she's nearly killed by an evil man called Colonel Zolo (the man who killed her sister's husband before she was kidnapped) when she's literally saved at the last minute by Jack T. Colton (Douglas) who comes to her rescue when it matters most, much like the male hero in many of her books. Needing his help to get out of the jungle and to the nearest pay phone, the two of them agree on a fee of three hundred and seventy-five dollars in travelers checks (American Express, of course!).
The film from this point is the purest definition of cliché and predictability. Stuffy and nervous New York City Joan Wilder becomes a little more apt to the treachery of the jungle and Jack Colton learns to lighten up his rough edges a bit...and, of course, the two of them inevitable fall in love along the way. So I suppose the real flare of the film is watching the two of them escape the dangers of their enemies and to ultimately discover what sort of treasure it is they're seeking and to see who will get to it first, the good guys or the bad guys...yeah, as if we couldn't predict that! I must say, it's interesting to see not only how Jack gets his hands on the treasure (a precious stone, hence the movie's title) with the arm-chomping alligator, but how he chooses to spend the money on his dream sail boat, which he uses to sweep the now beautiful heroine, Joan Wilder off of her feet at the end. Yes, it's the kind of Hollywood ending of love and happily-ever-after that just leaves you feeling, "Awwww!"
All silliness aside, the film is quite enjoyable due to the above-mentioned characteristics of its actors and their comic performances. For adventurous content, it's pure fantasy in the art of treasure hunting and survival that is meant to be inspired by, if not an homage to, cheap and cheesy romance-adventure novels. Hell, even the film's novelization knew just how to market itself and take advantage of the very (semi) literary genre it was adapting...
Hey, if absolutely nothing else, ROMANCING THE STONE was a far superior film, in my opinion, to that unfortunate and rather tragic second attempt at continuing the saga of a certain famous archaeologist and adventurer, namely INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM (hated that movie!). It was also a great introduction to the kind of filmmaker Robert Zemeckis was, one year before he would really make his name well known with a time traveling kid named Marty McFly, an animated rabbit who got framed and a young simpleton who believed that life was like a box of chocolates.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jack Colton: "What did you do, wake up this morning and say, "Today, I'm gonna ruin a man's life"?