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Overall Rating

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look58.33%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad: 4.17%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 18 user ratings

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Romancing the Stone
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by Jack Sommersby

"Breezy, Colorful, First-Rate Escapist Fare"
4 stars

One of 1984's better pictures, it's uncommonly well thought-out and executed with care and precision.

Romancing the Stone is a south-of-the-border adventure comedy everyone involved with can be proud of, mainly because it respects an audience's intelligence while still packing maximum entertainment value, which isn't always easy to come by in this day and age of impersonal, synthetically packaged Hollywood productions. It's got a nifty story premise, and it's maturely developed through and through -- it doesn't leave its creativity at the starting gate simply because it's got a nifty taking-off point. Kathleen Turner, who was impersonally mannered in her starring debut in Lawrence Kasdan's embarrassingly derivative neo-noir Body Heat from three years prior, is nothing short of spectacular as mild-mannered Manhattan best-selling romance novelist Joan Wilder, who finds herself rushing off to Columbia, South America to deliver a mysterious package to the kidnappers of her sister: it's a treasure map having been mailed to her by her brother-in-law before his untimely demise at the hands of a psychopathically corrupt general; a pair of American treasure hunters at odds with the general have abducted the sister and contacted Joan to bring the map to them. She almost does but gets on the wrong bus, which the general has snuck onto; when they crash into a stalled jeep in the middle of nowhere, with all the rest of the passengers walking away up the road, the general pulls a gun on her and demand she hand over the map -- only a fellow happens upon them, one Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas), who shoots when he's drawn down on, and he saves Joan from almost certain death. Jack, with his long hair, lithe physique, easgoing charm, is the very emblem of Joan's recurring literary hero Jesse, and the movie wisely doesn't lean too hard on that -- we're given time to get to know Jack: that he's prone to making mistakes and sizing up a situation for his own selfish benefit; in other words, he's refreshingly three-dimensional. He dreams of making enough money to buy a sailboat and setting off in the open ocean for the rest of his life; and when Joan comments that it sounds lonely, Jack can't help but be brought up short -- he's been so emotionally isolated the last year and a half since he got off a coffee boat in South America that the lack of a female companion comes as a complete oversight. (He's spent the last six months collecting rare birds for his nest egg, which has "flown south for the winter" when the bus crashed into his vehicle and unleashed his booty from the cages.)

In the overall schema, and without being overly schematic about it, Joan's timidity gives way to internal strength, and Jack's guardedness to emotional openness, and the chief pleasure of the movie is the gradual fusion of these soul mates amid quite the tumultuous of situations. The screenplay is a first by Diane Thomas, who gives the impression of someone immersed in movies, conscious of genre expectations, and yet possessive of a distinctive wit of her own -- she's not looking to redefine genre, exactly; not expand on it, either, but to give it a little tweaking in the areas that count. The result is a movie that gives us pleasure in seeing our expectations fulfilled with sprinklings of the familiar but also with neat little touches that turn some cliches on their head, like the tough-talking drug trafficking leader of a small puebla going agog all of a sudden over coming face-to-face with his favorite author ("The Joan Wilder? I have all your books! I read them to my people!"); and even some familiar elements, like the ever-urbanite Joan encountering jungle dangers ranging from mudslides and large snakes, have quite the humorous visual payoffs. There's plenty of action, to be sure, and the director, Robert Zemeckis, whose last picture was the uproarious Used Cars (which also had its share of action), stages them with both imagination and finesse. Working in widescreen for the first time and with John Carpenter's regular cinematographer Dean Cundey, Zemeckis keeps the proceedings visually luscious (the greens, in particular, are truly ravishing), and, with the help of composer Alan Silvestri's boisterous score, tonally ingratiating -- even when a bit of explicit violence is introduced late in the game, it's not mean-spirited: it's like a naughtily nasty release you can get from an afternoon quickie. Romancing the Stone isn't anything spectacular, and I can't say it stays with you for long the next day (it probably works exactly as intended akin to a junk-food sugar high), but I've seen a lot of "serious-minded" productions without a tenth of the wit and technical sophistication -- it's, in its own proud way, gold-plated cinematic irreverence. The dialogue is a consistent pleasure (when Joan remarks that her footwear Jack has whacked the heels off with a machete were Italian, he calmly shoots back, "Now they're practical"), the location shooting in and around Veracruz, Mexico is an eyeful, and the chemistry between Turner and Douglas (whose assured comic timing is an unexpected delight) has an unforced genuiness that's part of why we go to the movies in the first place.

Skip the underwhelming, impersonal sequel "The Jewel of the Nile."

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originally posted: 03/09/13 06:58:38
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User Comments

3/13/17 morris campbell a classic adventure flick 4 stars
4/02/13 Caleb Never really found this as entertaining as everyone says. 2 stars
6/26/11 John Airey Very fun movie...felt like I was there! 4 stars
6/18/11 Jack Sommersby Turner and Douglas are outstanding in this inventive, entertaining comic adventure. 4 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White Hidden treasure, macho man and romance 5 stars
4/10/05 Ronin great fun! 5 stars
11/19/04 screb good fun 4 stars
4/29/03 Buko Funny and exciting, this movie explodes with Kathleen and Michael chemistry 5 stars
4/13/03 Dr. Zinn Great film. Very entertaining. Fabulous script. 4 stars
11/24/02 Charles Tatum No big deal 4 stars
5/20/02 Justin Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito are awesome! 5 stars
4/05/02 Justin Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito are fantastic! 5 stars
1/26/02 Andrew Carden It Was Wonderful. Funny As Hell Also. 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Michael Douglas is a pimp as always...this movie is a fuck of a ride. 5 stars
2/18/01 Jake Good combination of action, humor, and romance 4 stars
1/14/01 R.W. Welch Sharply directed lark-adventure type flick. 4 stars
9/19/00 homer simpson great adventure flick with comedy 5 stars
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  04-Jul-1984 (PG)
  DVD: 29-Aug-2006



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