The second in an ongoing series wherein I revisit films I loved when I was younger.
“Cops?! What the hell do they want? I haven’t done anything lately.”
Recently, I’ve felt like Hollywood has forgotten how to make date movies. Upon re-watching Romancing the Stone, I’m more sure of it than ever. The perfect date movie should have enough action and a hot enough female lead to satisfy the male audience members and enough romance and a hunky enough male lead to keep the ladies happy. There should be funny elements that both can laugh at, and while the dialog and plot don’t need to be Oscar-worthy, they also need not be cringe-inducing. This film hits all those points.
At its heart, this is an adventure film, with romance novelist Joan Wilder (Springfield, Missouri’s own Kathleen Turner) sets off for Columbia to rescue her kidnapped sister. Along the way, she gets some help, and a little brown-chicken-brown-cow, from bird poacher/scofflaw Jack T. Colton (HPV’s own Michael Douglas). Hijinks and hilarity ensue. Honestly, the chemistry between these two is something rarely seen anymore. They have a great sense of timing, and there is genuine joy and affection in their eyes when they’re together. It’s so compelling to watch, they’d end up in two more films together, 1985’s atrocious sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, and 1989’s darker-than-Wesley-Snipes black comedy, The War of the Roses. Even though the totality of all three films is a bit mixed, the interplay between these two is consistently good throughout. If you’ve never seen the latter, it’s well worth seeking out. Not uplifting, mind you, but certainly worth a viewing.
Guys will be more than happy with the action here, and Jack is a great hero, a man living just outside the law, ready to use his sawed-off shotgun when in a bind, quick-witted, sarcastic… The kind of guy we all want to be until we realize that that guy is kind of a dick to be around. Women should, I assume, find the love story compelling. Joan starts off a little meek but gains confidence as the story progresses, so much so that by the end (spoilers), it’s she who takes on the lead villain while Jack is off doing, well, what Jack does. The only real issue I have is that it feels a little dated but not quite enough to make it nostalgic. Al Pacino’s wide lapels in The Godfather are correct for the period. Michael Douglas’s skinny tie/denim shirt combo here, just ludicrous. And the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack gets a little grating after a while. It’s as if the only musicians that could get work in the eighties were keyboard players.
While writing this, I’ve been trying to think of the last film I saw that fit the criteria I listed earlier. The only one that immediately comes to mind is another favorite, 2001’s The Mexican with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. It’s funnier than this one, but also darker, and certainly more cinematically ambitious. Now I feel like I need to watch that one again…