Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile Special Editions—20th Century Fox

Video: 5
Audio: 4
Extras: 3

Although Hollywood has been mixing genres and tinkering with styles since film began, few movies as adeptly combine action, romance, and comedy as 1984’s Romancing the Stone. And, while its 1985 sequel fails to re-create the same magic, both films have a carefree approach that holds up 20 years later on DVD—albeit one that seems almost quaint in such an age of political correctness.

True, Romancing the Stone has the stereotypical Colombian militiaman antagonist, and The Jewel of the Nile features an all-too-familiar Arab villain. But the somewhat cartoonish nature of both movies make the retro attitudes easier for the viewer to forgive.

Romancing the Stone follows Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), a romance novelist who’s more caught up in her fictional world than the one around her. But, when her sister is abducted in Colombia, she’s forced to travel south to deliver a map in exchange for her sibling. After a bus accident leaves her far away from Cartegena, a dashing expatriate named Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) reluctantly agrees to help her make her way back to the city. He also talks her into discovering what exactly the map is leading to, but, in searching for the treasure, the two find love—as well as a host of dangerous characters trying to get to the treasure first.

Picking up where the happily-ever-after leaves off, The Jewel of the Nile finds Joan and Jack in the French Riviera, growing complacent in their relationship. Joan is unable to finish her latest novel; Jack spends more time playing than thinking about the future. However, when a mysterious Arab stranger offers Joan the chance to write his biography, their adventures begin again on the streets of North Africa. Danny DeVito pops up again as Ralph, the lovable con man.

Both Special Edition DVDs have 2.35:1 anamorphic pictures that look as though they were shot yesterday, with vibrant, natural-looking colors that have just the right amount of saturation and details galore. Romancing the Stone makes use of a Dolby Surround soundtrack that sounds surprisingly good, considering the limitations of the format. Both music and effects come through loud and clear, despite the somewhat muddy surrounds. Jewel of the Nile has a Dolby Surround track that delivers rich-sounding music and effects, although the dialogue is pretty low, so you might want to turn up your center channel a few notches.

The DVDs make excellent use of extras, incorporating Turner, Douglas, and DeVito in the featurettes, which is always a feat on supplemental DVD material. (Of course, it probably helps that Douglas was a producer on both films.) “Rekindling the Romance: A Look Back” provides an in-depth look at the making of the first film, incorporating production stills and old interview footage. “A Hidden Treasure: The Screenwriter” sheds light on the tragic story of Diane Thomas, whose script for Romancing the Stone Douglas discovered when she was toiling as a waitress in Malibu. About a year and half after the film was released, she died when her boyfriend crashed her Porsche Carrera on Pacific Coast Highway. Douglas reveals in the featurette that he had purchased the car for her as a thank-you for contributing to the script for The Jewel of the Nile.

Deleted scenes are available on both discs, as well. For the first film, the additional scenes offer different takes on exchanges that remain in the final cut, while the scenes from The Jewel of the Nile seem to have been excised for time more than anything and don’t really extend the plot.

While Romancing the Stone is certainly the better of the pair, make a night of it, and watch both. When viewed together, they make an awfully fun pair.

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