Synopsis: Romance novelist Joan Wilder (Turner) lives for – and in – a fantasy world. But when her sister is kidnapped in Colombia and the only chance to save her is to bring a treasure map to her captors, reality quickly becomes stranger then fiction. Thrown into a jungle full of gunfire, mud slides and poisonous snakes, Joan’s only hope lies with Jack Colton (Douglas), a rugged wanderer straight out of her novels. Together, they’ll have to outwit the bandits and survive the jungle if they’re to save her sister and find the secret of “El Corazon!”
Gosh, this film holds such memories for me. I remember so clearly when it came out: all my friends were talking about it and it sounded like so much fun. At the time, I wasn’t seeing everything my friends were – so I had to contend with their stories instead (in fact, there are still a few films they talked about that I have yet to see!).
It took at least ten years before I actually saw ‘Romancing the Stone’, but, in the meantime, it kept its allure of a fun-filled action-adventure flick. When I finally got around to seeing it, it was a great relief – but it was hardly everything I imagined it could be. If anything, it felt like a poor-man’s ‘Indiana Jones’.
…or a rich man’s ‘Allan Quatermain’
Back in 1984, ‘Romancing The Stone’ was such a hit that they had a sequel hammered out within a year. Does it make the movie a classic? Not necessarily. Many movies are greenlit every year, and some people churn out films like it’s nobody’s business (think Clint Eastwood or Woody Allen). By that point, Michael Douglas had already been a succesful producer and probably knew how to get films made efficiently (…and when’s the allure of money…)
Basically, RTS is a dated affair; it feels and looks like it was made in the ’80s. Despite taking place in Columbia and, thus, being unhampered by what would be clearly out-dated technology or lingo in North America, the film has a style that is clearly of that era. It’s a well-made piece for what it is, but it really reeks of action adventure films pre-Die Hard and pre-Lethal Weapon (which, it should be noted, are recognized as defining moment in action cinema).
There is one notable high point to this film, however: unlike most action films, it caters to women in many ways; the protagonist (played ably by Kathleen Turner) is a novelist, and things are seen from her perspective. The film is essentially a fantasy for women who feel trapped in mundane, lovelorn lives – it is meant to be a full-blown romantic escape from the doldrums of their daily travails.
The fact that the male hero gets almost as much screen time as the main protagonist is irrelevant here, because the film is not about him – it really is about her journey and her adventure… with him in tow. So the film gets bonus points for taking a different approach on that count. Even if it does everything else pretty predictably.
Basically, if you want adventure, ‘Romancing the Stone’ will provide it with most conventions (and expectations!) intact. That may be satisfying for many, but it doesn’t quite do the trick for me. I will probably look elsewhere next time.