Romancing the Stone (1984)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone (1984)

A Different Douglas but a Swashbuckling Adventure

"Romancing the Stone" plays like an 80s homage to those classic matinee movies, those swashbuckling movies of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. It has adventure, action, comedy and romance in equal measures as we watch a hero help a damsel in distress in the midst of a tropical nowhere. But rather than feeling like a knock off "Romancing the Stone" works bringing this classic concept into a new age, well the 80s, and manages at the same time to play on what was then an interest in swashbuckling, treasure hunting movies thanks to "Indiana Jones".

Romantic-fiction novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner - Body Heat) discovers that her sister is in grave danger and must make her way from New York to a small hotel in the Colombian town of Cartagena to deliver a mysterious treasure map in order to save her. But when Joan arrives in Colombia she first finds herself being sent in the wrong direction by a mysterious man and then stranded in the midst of a Colombian jungle. Fortunately for her she meets Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas - Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), an American working in the jungle who begrudgingly agrees to help her to Cartagena. But when it becomes apparent that they have men on their trail and that she has a treasure map, things change.

Danny DeVito as Ralph in Romancing the Stone (1984)

"Romancing the Stone" is a movie of two halves with the first half putting all the pieces into place so we have Joan and Jack in the middle of a Colombian jungle, being chased by mysterious men and more importantly in possession of a treasure map. It's nicely done as it all has an air of mystery as we don't know exactly what the purpose of the map is and as such we are not 100% sure why there is a man called Santos after them but also another group who have kidnapped Joan's sister. And all the time we have the mystery we get equal measures of adventure and comedy such as the great mud slide scene which finishes with Michael Douglas with his head between Kathleen Turner's legs. It sounds saucy but in fact it is purely comical and with the adrenalin rush of the exciting mud slide makes for a brilliant scene, just one of many during the exciting first half.

The second half continues with the bad guys trying to get to Joan and Jack but now it takes on the treasure hunting aspect. It's not the most convincing and solid treasure hunting storyline you will ever see but again it is played for laughs so when it becomes contrived it's done so in a very intentional and humorous manner. Plus of course we get more excitement with more great scenes as the waterfall scene and various ones featuring crocodiles as stepping stones.

The thing is with "Romancing the Stone" is that not for one moment should it be taken seriously, the opening which features Joan, a romantic/fiction writer imagining a story is pure comedy and although there are those more dramatic moments everything has a heavy coating of comedy. Much of which it has to be said comes from the brilliant Danny DeVito who is over the top and hysterically slimy as the slightly incompetent Ralph who is trying to follow Joan and Jack.

Danny DeVito is by no means the only one who delivers the comedy and both Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner have their fair share of great lines and funny scenes, the burning drugs scene is just priceless. But what makes Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner so good is the chemistry they have together, they genuinely seem so in tune like an old married couple, so when they argue it feels believable yet it feels just as right when they are not. Plus both play their roles just enough over the top so that they don't end up being too funny.

What this all boils down to is that it may be over 25 years old but "Romancing the Stone" still is an entertaining movie. The whole old style feel, the damsel in distress, the rugged hero, the treasure hunting, adventure, action and comedy all works together to make a very memorable movie. I am not for one minute saying that "Romancing the Stone" is a great movie but it brings all these elements together to not only entertain but live long in your memory long after you have watched it.


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