Romancing the Stone (1984)
February 15, 2021 7:55 PM - Subscribe

A mousy romance novelist sets off for Colombia to ransom her kidnapped sister, and soon finds herself in the middle of a dangerous adventure hunting for treasure with a mercenary rogue.

Don't watch the trailer at Youtube first, it has all the good parts. Watch it after for the old school framing device with Danny DeVito!

The Wikipedia article notes the movie received both good and bad reviews at the time of its release. The reviews revolve around how critics felt the movie did as an Indiana Jones clone. Time thought it was a rip-off. Time Out compared it favorably to Temple of Doom, which came out the same year.

The movie won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Kathleen took home the Globe for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy.

The sad death of Diane Thomas, screenwriter. Gone too soon.

As late as ten years ago Fox had plans to remake the movie as a feature. A week later plans had shifted to TV. And the remake was never heard from again.
posted by Fukiyama (24 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I love this movie. It's just fun action and comedy fish out of water story seeing a sheltered, successful romance novelist reluctantly thrown into her own romance novel caper. It relies on the strong personalities of its three main characters played by the naive Turner, Douglas the assholish and cynical but lovable rogue, and DeVito, doing his best DeVito. Not a deep story, but fast moving and funny.

Never knew about the Indiana Jones comparison. I guess I could see it though it never occurred to me. 30+ years later, I think Romancing the Stone holds up better. The sequel should be avoided.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:04 PM on February 15, 2021 [6 favorites]

This movie is so fun. I haven't seen the sequel, thankfully? But I find this movie works because of some very basic principles, where Douglas and Turner start out with quite different goals at the start of things, but which plausibly require them to work with each other, only for those goals to semi-merge by the end. It's fun and I showed it to my partner for the first time during quarantine, and they loved it.
posted by Carillon at 11:23 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

"Romancing the Stone" is a movie that's always been there. It is a sublime example of 80s filmmaking. Kathleen, Michael, and Danny are perfect in the offbeat roles of Joan Wilder, Jack T. Colton, and Ralph. The rest of the cast, including 80s stalward Mary Ellen Trainor, are also excellent. RoS looks good as well. The Mexico locations are all outstanding, lending authenticity and color to the production. The writing is the backbone of the movie. Everyone has interesting things to say and do.

I agree, skip RoS's sequel. But do check out "The War of the Roses," the third movie to co-star Michael, Kathleen, and Danny.
posted by Stuka at 6:53 AM on February 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

I hadn't seen this since I was a kid so I watched it with my partner about a month ago. She had never seen it and is younger than the movie (fuck, I'm old). We both enjoyed it so much.

I really love that his scheme to get rich finally involved... birds? I forget except I think he was like my nest egg just flew away.

Good advice to skip the sequel, I was tempted to watch it coming up.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:07 AM on February 16, 2021

Are there any examples of this kind of buddy / heist / rescue movie where the Woman is the schemer and the Man is the naive one?
posted by Faintdreams at 7:14 AM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I watched this recently because of the Blank Check podcast (same director as Roger Rabbit and Forest Gump and Castaway, what!) and I absolutely loved it. I miss these action/adventure/romance/comedy movies so much.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:16 AM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

The beginning of this movie pissed me off so much! She was heading to Colombia, a warm place, wearing a full length down coat. I don’t care that it was movie shorthand for whatever, fish out of water scenario. To me it said she was clearly a stupid person and I didn’t want to watch a movie about a stupid person.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:31 AM on February 16, 2021

i mean, I don't recall the sequel being unwatchable, but it definitely suffered from "sequelitis" where it felt like they started filming before they'd really solidified the story or the script.

And I definitely remember the critics viewing this as an Indiana Jones clone, to the point where I'm pretty sure we went to see it more out of a "Well, why not? There's nothing else in the theater and a cut-rate Indy is better than nothing" kinda way but walked out going, "Hey, that was really good, way better than I expected."

Damn, I really need to give this a rewatch.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:08 AM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've not seen this film for years, but I really loved it back in the day. Michael Douglas was at his hot best, Kathleen Turner was a wonderful foil, and the whole thing just worked really well.
posted by essexjan at 9:27 AM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was going to say something in the main post, but I couldn't put into words what I wanted to say. You all have done a fine job. The three main leads are all excellent. The supporting cast does an excellent job as well, fleshing out the world of the movie.

Even if this movie wasn't very good, it would still occupy a special place in my heart as it is one of those very early movies I watched when i was little just because my mom watched it. I have seen it many times over the years and it has thankfully held up.

The beginning of this movie pissed me off so much! She was heading to Colombia, a warm place, wearing a full length down coat. I don’t care that it was movie shorthand for whatever, fish out of water scenario. To me it said she was clearly a stupid person and I didn’t want to watch a movie about a stupid person.

It was cold in NYC and she took it off when she got there! The entire start of the movie is about how she is a fish out of water just leaving her apartment, let alone going to Colombia.
posted by Fukiyama at 2:30 PM on February 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

Agreed on the sequel being disappointing in several ways, except for 1) you were a juggler and a fan of the Flying Karamazov Brothers, who played the Sufi(?) rebels, or B) you could obviously tell that Turner, Devito, and Douglas were having a lot of fun working together (see also War of the Roses).

RtS also contains two fantastically suspense building, then breaking, line readings by character actors, which I sometimes still quote in appropriate company.
"Joan Wilder? THE Joan Wilder!? I read your books! I read ALL your books!"
"Joan. Wilder. You...and your sister... CAN GO!"

Not to mention
"That was the end of Grogan. The bastard who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned down my ranch, shot my dog, and stole my bible!"

If you would like to recapture a little of the magic, might I suggest the overlooked Undercover Blues? RtS couple as retired spies, with Turner as Turner, Dennis Quaid subbed for Douglas, and Stanley Tucci filling in for Devito.
posted by bartleby at 3:03 PM on February 16, 2021 [10 favorites]

You know what's weird is that I may have seen this movie once, barely remember anything out of it, but I've watched Jewel of the Nile like a ton of times. I continue to be extremely amused by that movie.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:14 PM on February 16, 2021

And because it's an 80s movie, let's not forget the MTV music video. Song by Billy Ocean, featuring the three leads mugging for the camera. They sure look like they were having fun.
posted by happyroach at 4:30 PM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

Faintdreams-Dirty Rotten Scoundrels sort of falls into that category.
posted by miss-lapin at 5:06 PM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ken Levine gives his perspective on being part of the screenwriting for Jewel of the Nile in this blogpost .

He has other statements about it in various places on his blog, but this is the one I remember.
posted by jkosmicki at 6:22 PM on February 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

"...looks like some kind of trail."
"This is a trail?"

A family regular. Love this movie. Jewel of the Nile is less good.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:10 PM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's been an age, but I remember it as being fun, and the Indiana Jones comparisons were both obvious and superfluous--the point was, what if Indiana Jones, but sex? Kind of professional fanfic.

And because it's an 80s movie, let's not forget the MTV music video. Song by Billy Ocean, featuring the three leads mugging for the camera. They sure look like they were having fun.

That was from the sequel, and the only thing of worth connected to it. The same-cast The War of the Roses was fine, though.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:59 PM on February 16, 2021

I liked this movie. I had never considered the actual comparison to Indiana Jones. I mean I guess it's obviously there, but it seems like a couple obvious surfacey things, but RtS is such an obviously whole different kind of story, a whole different meaning of adventure.

(FWIW IMHO Splash is a very 80s movie that has also held up pretty well.)

I mentioned this on MeFi before but back when I saw it young me thought how extremely gendered the two main characters are, and now I wonder if that is a kind of romantic novel thing, to show very cishet love, two people who initially can't see each other as human at all because of all the resentment between them. Of course the thing that brings them together is desire to fuck.. OTOH I feel like I see lots of otherwise queer fanfics where characters who have no business being together are attracted through sheer desire to kiss.
posted by fleacircus at 6:43 PM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

This movie was a favorite in my family and I have seen it many, many times, to an extent that is probably difficult to comprehend in this age of fantastic content availability but made perfect sense at the dawn of the VHS age.

Many of its lines and phrases ("Is this the bus to Cartagena?", "THE Joan Wilder?") have attained the status of linguistic shorthand for me and my siblings, standing in for whole sets of concepts in much the same way as the “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” stuff from that ST:TNG episode.

It's not a perfect movie but it's damn good, and so very much a product of its time in a good way. I'm pretty sure I still would enjoy it but I'm sure I wouldn't have the same relationship with it if I were seeing it for the first time in 2021. 1984: you kind of had to be there.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:48 AM on February 18, 2021

I haven’t seen this since it came out (there may have been a subsequent viewing on VCR but I don’t recall).

Rewatch time!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2021

Faintdreams - I think that What's Up Doc with Barbra Streisand might fit your question.
posted by backwards compatible at 5:42 PM on February 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

It was cold in NYC and she took it off when she got there!

She lived in NYC. She stepped from a heated apartment building into a heated cab to a heated airport terminal with a maximum of five steps between each? Actually I don’t remember, was there some drama about getting to the airport? Because I can guarantee I’ve done it in worse weather, wearing capris and a hoodie and I don’t live in NYC to begin with. Twenty minutes waiting for the airport bus in the cold and snow is better than lugging around a heavy coat for four or five months. And I do remember her sliding down some jungle path in the mud...wearing that coat.

It’s just that “fish out of water” can be illustrated many ways and the writers went for obvious/ditz. But hey, it’s not nearly as egregious as that steaming pile of crap, Eat Pray Love.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:16 PM on February 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I live in NYC and regularly travel to the south for holidays and I literally always wear my huge winter coat to the airport, because it’s VERY GODDAMN COLD. I do not like being cold, even for brief periods, so I wear a coat, so I won’t be cold. That is not a weird or unusual thing to do!
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:04 PM on February 19, 2021 [6 favorites]

The modern sequel looks like it never panned out, but a spiritual reboot is coming soon. The Lost City (trailer) stars Sandra Bullock as a romantic adventure writer who gets caught up in a real life adventure.
posted by Monochrome at 2:48 PM on January 18, 2022

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