Judge Clark Douglas does not miss the 1980s.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
"If we get out of this alive, I'm going to kill you!"
Facts of the Case
In the blockbuster action-adventure film Romancing the Stone, we were introduced to a pair of likable lead characters. The first was Joan (Kathleen Turner, The War of the Roses), a modestly successful writer of romantic adventure novels. The second was Jack (Michael Douglas, You, Me, and Dupree), a rugged man who was living a rough-and-tumble life in the middle of a dangerous jungle. Joan and Jack have returned for this sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, but something seems different about them. Somehow, Joan has transformed from modestly successful writer to mega-celebrity. Her works of fictional fluff are so popular that she has inspired a controversial Arab leader (Spiros Focas, Rambo III) to ask Joan to write a biography of him. Huh. That's odd.
Meanwhile, Jack is no longer the rugged action hero we met in the first film. He has become an international playboy, and he has his heart set on going to party in Greece. Joan has her heart set on writing the biography, which will require her to miss out on the trip to Greece. The two begrudgingly part ways, admitting that their relationship hasn't really been working out so well, anyway. Joan quickly discovers that the subject of her biography is a very wicked man, while Jack winds up teaming with Ralph (Danny DeVito, Throw Momma From the Train) on a mission to find a mysterious jewel. Turns out that this "jewel" is actually a holy man, not a precious stone. Before long, Jack, Joan, and Ralph are all mixed up in some sort of crazy…ah, yeah, it's not going to be very pleasant.
I'm not a huge fan of the mediocre Robert Zemeckis adventure Romancing the Stone, but that film plays like The Seventh Seal in comparison to this very misguided sequel. The Jewel of the Nile is a misfire on just about every single level, providing a nearly unwatchable viewing experience that represents a career low point for nearly everyone involved.
First off, the writer and director of the original film were out, which is rarely a good thing when you're trying to recapture the success of a film. Screenwriter Diane Thomas was replaced by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, who turned in a first draft that Kathleen Turner called "absolutely dreadful." It was so bad that Turner initially elected not to reprise her role, causing producer and co-star Michael Douglas to bring Thomas in to add some personal touches to the script. I imagine that in most cases, a rewrite would be called for…but director Lewis Teague informs us that the movie was "a rush job," and something had to be done fast. To put it bluntly, the screenplay was little more than a polished turd.
Teague filled in for director Robert Zemeckis, who had gone on to direct a little movie called Back to the Future. Looking at Teague's prior track record, he would seem a reasonable enough choice. His primary achievements were two overlooked Steven King adaptations, Cujo and Cat's Eye. I can imagine that Douglas thought he could really bring something to the table. The Jewel of the Nile turned out very poorly, and Teague would later go on to direct rubbish such as Wedlock, Navy Seals and Collision Course. Ugh.
I could give you a long and detailed account of the problems this film has, but I'll save you the time and simply condense everything. The screenplay is very poorly written, and has a frighteningly heavy reliance on racial stereotypes and bad lines. Was having DeVito shout, "Get out of my way, towelhead!" really supposed to be funny? Teague defends his decisions: "Obviously, we couldn't really make a film quite as politically incorrect today…but we were living in a more naïve and innocent time back then." If this film is the product of a naïve and innocent time, then sign me up for some cynicism. Turner and Douglas are unable to recapture the easygoing chemistry of the first film, and the very funny DeVito is saddled with a large portion of the worst dialogue. Whose idea was it to make Douglas and Turner rather unenthusiastic about each other for the majority of the film? We endured all of the obligatory bickering and spite in Romancing the Stone, why couldn't we get a sequel in which the heroes actually liked each other? To hell with "romantic tension."
The transfer and audio here are about on par with the Romancing the Stone Blu-ray release. Flecks and specks are more prevalent here, but overall the image is relatively pleasing considering it's age. Audio is rather flat and poorly organized. Dialogue, music, and sound design almost never reaches a satisfying level of balance. The music in the film ranges from mediocre (the synth-pop Jack Nitzsche score) to the dreadful (that awful song by Billy Ocean). Supplements include a dull commentary with Teague, a twenty-minute featurette in which everyone tries very hard to say nice things about the movie (but it's obvious that only Teague is actually fond of it), some deleted scenes, an amusing trailer, and a featurette recapping the plot called "Adventures of a Romance Novelist." All of this was included on the previous DVD special edition, and I didn't find any of it terribly interesting.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Feel free to use the time you would normally spend reading this section of the review to grab a snack, or perhaps a tasty beverage. You back? Great! Let's wrap this baby up.
What a wretched waste of time and money. This film is the very definition of "A lame attempt to cash in quickly on the success of a motion picture without any regard for artistic standards." Where did I put my mouthwash?
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