Fox // 1985 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // August 29th, 2006
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Well, Joan (Kathleen Turner), Jack (Michael Douglas) and Ralph (Danny DeVito) all return from Romancing the Stone, and in The Jewel of the Nile, their mission (should they choose to accept it) to retrieve a jewel, which is located near a river in Egypt. This was previously released on DVD a while back, so not only does one question whether to double-dip, but whether the sequel holds it own.
When last we left Joan Wilder and Jack Colton, they were sailing away into the sunset. Instead, the water was asphalt and the sunset was (presumably) a Sunday morning in New York. Joan is employed to write a sanitized biography on Omar (Spiros Focás, White Palace), a polarizing figure in an Arab country who claims to have spiritual powers. The powers actually belong to a jewel, the jewel, of the Nile. The problem is the jewel isn't a rock, it's a person, portrayed by Avner Eisenberg (Brenda Starr). So Joan returns the jewel, eventually using Jack, who was hurt at first because Joan had left him to write this book. Ralph has escaped from his Colombian jail cell and has followed Jack and Joan to France with the intention of kidnapping and killing them, but he joins forces with them as part of the reward for bringing the "jewel" back to a resistance group of sorts (played by...The Flying Karamazov Brothers???).
Maybe it's a subconscious pathological hatred of Billy Ocean that stokes my motivation for saying this, but if there was an action plan on how to take the goodwill and popularity of an initial film and flush it down the toilet with a bad sequel, The Jewel of the Nile certainly followed that plan to the letter. The unique combination of action, comedy and romance that writer Diane Thomas first developed in Romancing the Stone was replaced by a bunch of flat one-liners by Turner and Douglas, along with the occasional comic line by DeVito. Maybe I should break that down, for every funny line DeVito recites, there were three or four that aren't too politically correct. In fact, I don't think Osama Bin Laden decided to combat the U.S. after watching the Somalia episode. I think he may have watched The Jewel of the Nile. Of course, this is a closet theory I have, and I may be way off, but I'm working on collecting evidence on it now and hope to have it published shortly.
What annoyed me about the film is that it provides the assumption that Joan is a big-time superhero actress now, but they essentially neuter Jack's character development, aside from some veiled references to him being macho. One would think that there would be some logical character exposition to Jack, aside from being the anonymous beefcake with some tender aspirations in the first film, now he shows up every so often to curse and remind us that he's a wild guy because he likes to go commando. Joan is stuck trying to write the proverbial sequel to her successful book, but she has a problem trying to find out what happens after they ride off into the sunset. Gloria (Holland Taylor), Joan's publisher from the first film, reminds her that nothing happens, that it's romance and fantasy, and no one wants to deal with reality. Well, the reality in The Jewel of the Nile sucks, so let's forget that this ever happened, and remember how fun and cute Romancing the Stone was, shall we?
Unlike its predecessor, The Jewel of the Nile gets a surround track, which is good. The problem with it was that the sound quality was inconsistent and all over the place. The dialogue levels were way too low, so when I had to turn up my receiver to compensate, the explosions woke me up from the power nap I was having, since the movie was seriously testing my insomnia. In another step unlike its predecessor, The Jewel of the Nile has a commentary, though it's with Director Lewis Teague (Cujo) and not with the main actors. What's great about commentaries with individuals on their universally panned films is that they're either a little defensive on the film or the choices in it (witness The Godfather, Part III for instance), or the general train of thought is something along the lines of "well, it seemed good at the time." Teague is more along the lines of the latter, discussing what he thought at the time of taking the project. He also provides some biographical information on his career, along with some memories of the production. It's not too bad, all things considered. The retrospective look back at the production is also a little bit interesting, as the filmmakers recall the production and also provide a little bit of defense to it, because its large scale and multinational crew. Turner candidly discussed not wanting to do the film (until Douglas managed to get Thomas to come aboard for some script rewrites). There was a plane crash that claimed several lives of the crew, including the production designer, which further jinxed the production, and the actors discuss (some more frank than others) how challenging the shoot was. It's not that bad of a piece and helps to provide an additional look at the production that others may not have been aware of. Along with a look at the script of the film and DeVito's humorous trailer, there are a half dozen deleted scenes that complete this new edition.
What's the most memorable thing about The Jewel of the Nile? The Billy Ocean video. What's the logical thing that could have been included in this new edition of the film as an extra that wasn't included here? You guessed it. Not that I'm complaining of course, since I have VH-1 and am subjected to repeats of their "I Love the '80s" retrospectives on a weekly basis, but come on, this is just common sense here.
Every so often I ask the philosophical question that if a sequel is so bad that no one watches, does the film exist? Well, I can tell you it does, and after sitting though The Jewel of the Nile, it seems more and more apparent to me that in the rush to strike while the iron was hot, no one forgot to put on the safety gloves of quality before putting their greedy little hands back in the fire. I hope the blisters linger.
When the going gets tough and are charged, they are found guilty. Proceed with the next case.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 4.0 ES (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Commentary with Director Lewis Teague
* Deleted Scenes