Case Number 00073


Fox // 1984 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // July 23rd, 1999

The Charge

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner have the adventure of their lives in this hugely successful romantic caper co-starring Danny DeVito.

Opening Statement

As a 15-year-old movie, Romancing the Stone has aged well and this DVD helps to show off one of the best romantic comedies produced in the 1980s.

The Evidence

I cannot exactly recall the last time I saw Romancing the Stone in its full length but I certainly haven't seen it for at least 10 years. After viewing this film on DVD I remembered why it was so successful back in the '80s. There are three main elements that made this movie come together. First, the Indiana Jones-esque storyline capitalized on the success of that adventure series. Second, the film was directed by the ultra-talented Robert Zemeckis, who would next go on to Back to the Future and some years later win an Oscar as best director for Forrest Gump. Finally, the on-screen chemistry between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas plays out so well you truly believe their outrageous antics.

Romancing the Stone starts out as Kathleen Turner's character, Joan Wilder, narrates the final chapter in her latest romantic novel, which is acted out on-screen. Wilder shortly receives word that she must travel to Columbia where she must rescue her sister from kidnappers, for a ransom, of course. With reservations, Joan Wilder heads to South America where, after a bus crash, she meets up with wanderer/adventurer Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) who decides to help Wilder find her way to her sister, for a price. After being contacted by the kidnappers, Ira and Ralph (played by Danny DeVito), Wilder learns she must use a treasure map that she has to locate a valuable stone in order to exchange it for her sister's life. Colton and Wilder head out on their adventure, pursued by Ralph, the Colombian police, the Colombian army, and not to mention drug smugglers and dealers.

Throughout their journey Colton and Wilder fall in love with each other. However, Romancing the Stone shows some originality with its plot at this point. Whereas, at first Jack Colton refused to help Joan Wilder, and later accepted her offer due to payment, the film displayed that old-fashioned romantic ideals have been lost in a modern day world. During the film you must constantly question if Colton is really interested in Wilder, or just her money. Despite its romantic tones, Romancing the Stone is a unique film that both adults and children enjoy; a talent that Zemeckis holds as a director.

Fox has done an adequate job with their Romancing the Stone DVD; however, most of the problems with the disc can be linked directly to the age of the film. The video is fairly well presented with no major image problems. Many older transfers have nicks and scratches present as a result of the age of the negative the film was mastered from, but on Romancing the Stone the negative must have really been cleaned up well. The best part of this Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track is the score and music for the film. Unlike most '80s films, the music isn't too categorically "'80s" which makes the film more timeless than others. There are even some nice surround effects included in this disc, much to my surprise, including Joan Wilder's plane landing in Columbia and the roaring thunder of a Colombian downpour.

If original theatrical trailers are your thing, Romancing the Stone has exactly what you want; a theatrical trailer. Someone, please stop Fox before they waste too much money producing all this extra content.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While the transfer for Romancing the Stone is decent, it certainly is not up to par with other DVDs, even others released by Fox. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is not anamorphic and will definitely loose resolution on widescreen TVs. Some artifacting is present in places and there is some slight grain throughout the film. Placed only on a single layer, Romancing the Stone could certainly have benefited from a dual layer transfer to gain a higher amount of resolution.

I really can't fault the DVD for the bad sound effects used in this film...but they're there. Most obvious and horrid in the scene where Jack Colton has a shoot-out with Juan, after the bus crash. The gunfire all sounds the same, although Juan is firing a revolver and Colton is firing a shotgun, and is something one would expect to hear in an old western. If I really wanted to, I could probably locate a sound effects CD that contains the sounds used for gunfire in this film. Needless to say, this won't be the DVD you want to use to show off the great audio capabilities of surround sound and the DVD format.

Fox ultimately botched up this DVD. With a better transfer the disc would be passable, but with only a fairly good transfer and next to nothing in the extra content department, Fox fails to make Romancing the Stone a worthy purchase on DVD. Granted, this is probably the best transfer for the film you will find on any format (except maybe film itself) it still is not good enough to make it a must buy. As one of Fox's better films, I can only hope that they will re-release this disc in the future (possibly for the 20th anniversary) with added content as well as an anamorphic transfer.

Closing Statement

If you truly love this film and can handle spending $25 to get a decent audio and video transfer only, then you should purchase this disc. Others might just want to rent Romancing the Stone on DVD to give themselves a refreshing taste of a classic film, but hold out a few more years for a better DVD.

The Verdict

Film acquitted, the disc should be hidden in a cave in Columbia, never to be discovered again. Fox's DVD department is subsequently sentenced to life in prison and forced to resign their positions to a more consumer friendly staff.

Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 80
Audio: 79
Extras: 10
Acting: 86
Story: 84
Average: 68

Special Commendations
* All-Time Most Popular: #9

Perp Profile
Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb