Romancing the Stone


Back in the eighties, there were a lot of films (and television shows) that tried to cash in on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Who would have thought that this breezy trifle, written years before Raiders, would come closer to capturing the spirit of the original film than Spielberg’s sequel of the very same year?

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Romancing the Stone manages to make glorious fun of the conventions of trashy romance novels while still wallowing happily in them. Kathleen Turner plays Joan Wilder, a sheltered author of said romances in which bosoms heave and bodices are ripped in the requisite quantities. Her static, somewhat plodding life is interrupted, however, when she gets word that her sister has been kidnapped and Joan must deliver the ransom, a treasure map, to Colombia. Obviously, the writer of this movie has read more than a few novels exactly like the ones that Joan writes.

Wholly unprepared for life outside of New York City, she lurches off to South America, gets on the wrong bus and winds up stranded deep in the jungle. The crash that left her stuck also freed about $15,000 worth of birds that Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas) had captured to sell back in the states. So he needs some cash and she needs to deliver the ransom, so they form an uneasy partnership where neither wants the other around any longer than necessary. Of course, this being a parody of romance novels, you know that state of affairs won’t last long.


What follows is a frenetic race between Jack, Joan, her sister’s hapless, incompetent kidnappers and a ruthless Colombian officer, and the prize is a massive emerald known as “El Corazon.” Once Jack gets wind of the emerald, Joan begins to doubt she can trust him to help rescue her sister. Fortunately, some of the bad guys have read her novels, so her celebrity gets them out of at least one rather serious scrape.

With no ambition other than to entertain, this movie does so effortlessly. My recommendation is to enjoy multiple viewings of this movie, rather than subject yourself to the labored, unnecessary sequel, Jewel of the Nile.

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