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Romancing The Stone

movie reviewmovie review out of 4

*Also starring: Danny DeVito, Zack Norman, Alfonso Arau, Manuel Ojeda

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

Same as the westerns in early 1990s, adventure movies - another classic genre forgotten in modern times - made short Hollywood comeback ten years earlier. Series of high budget adventure films made in early and mid 1980s were, however, less inspired by nostalgic feelings of Hollywood executives - the real impulse was given by the success of first two films of Spielberg's Indiana Jones trilogy. Not surprisingly, the efforts to mimic Spielberg and his formula usually backfired. The only successful attempt was made by Spielberg's disciple Robert Zemeckis in his 1984 adventure comedy ROMANCING THE STONE - great commercial hit that managed to spawn a sequel two years later.

The heroine of the film is Joan Wilder (played by Kathleen Turner), writer of trashy romantic novels, whose professional success makes great contrast to the utter lack of romance in her private life. Everything changes when she receives mysterious package from her sister Elaine (played by Mary Ellen Trainor) who lives in Colombia. The package includes the treasure map and this is reason why Elaine gets kidnapped by American gangster Ira (played by Zack Norman). Since the gangsters demand the map in exchange for Elaine's freedom, Joan travels to Colombia where she gets greeted by Zolo (played by Andreas Katsulas), nasty local character who wants the map for himself. She intentionally misdirects Joan to take the wrong bus and travel to jungle where he would easily take the map out of hands of helpless American woman. His plan is foiled by the arrival of Jack Colton (played by Michael Douglas), American bird hunter who saves her from Zolo and reluctantly agrees to escort her back to civilisation. Soon it turns out that the unforgiving climate and wild animals aren't the only obstacles on their way - they are pursued by Ira's cousin Ralph (played by Danny de Vito), and Zolo reveals himself as the deputy commander of Colombian secret police. During the journey, Jack and Joan decide to take the treasure for themselves, and Joan slowly realises that Jack is the exactly the hero she was describing in her books.

We might get impression that the time has done great disservice to ROMANCING THE STONE. Decade and half after the premiere, the film looks terribly dated, but the problem was already there in 1984 - while Indiana Jones movies had period settings and therefore kept their timeless quality to this day, ROMANCING THE STONE somehow failed to bring the spirit of classic adventure films like THE AFRICAN QUEEN to 1980s setting (partially due to Alan Silvestri's score that sounds unmistakably 1980s and thus disrupts the illusion) and, as a result, the film looked anachronistic from the beginning. Thankfully, the scriptwriter Diane Thomas (who tragically died a year after the production of the film) was aware of concept's limitations and filled it with the right combination of action, romance and comedy. Some characters and situations are extremely funny or interesting, while other look lame. For example, character played by Danny de Vito, which is supposed to work as "comic relief" is actually irritating for the most of time (Alfons Arau as drug dealer and Holland Taylor as Joan's editor are more effective in that area), and the film might work very well without him. Same goes for Zack Norman as his partner, while Andreas Katsulas manages to transcend one- dimensionality of his villain character with enough dosage of creepyness. However, the best assets of the film are the two main actors. Kathleen Turner was incredible in this film - she is equally believable in the role of mousy romance novelist as she was in the role of manipulative seductress in BODY HEAT. She also has a great chemistry with Michael Douglas, whose role of classic adventure hero is so different from the roles he had played in late 1980s and 1990s. Zemeckis' direction is more than fine, although some scenes seem heavily influenced by Spielberg, and the pace of the film is satisfactory. The end result of his efforts is slightly flawed and somewhat old-fashioned film that nevertheless kept enough of its entertainment value to be recommended as fine example of 1980s Hollywood's craftsmanship.

Copyright 2001 Dragan Antulov

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