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20th Century Fox presents
Romancing the Stone: SE (1984)

Joan: You're the best time I've ever had.
Jack: I've never been anybody's best time before.

- Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: August 29, 2006

Stars: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito
Other Stars: Alfonso Arau, Manuel Ojeda
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Manufacturer: Panasonic Disc Manufacturing Corporation
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:45m:46s
Release Date: August 29, 2006
UPC: 024543266945
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+A-B B

DVD Review

If adventure has a name, it's...Joan Wilder? Although the Indiana Jones franchise already coined the catchphrase, that's the idea the producers of Romancing the Stone were gunning for while mounting this breezy, estrogen-infused action comedy. Writer Diane Thomas ripped the film's jungle setting and cliffhanging hijinks straight from Dr. Jones' world, and though a couple of years would pass before critics could dub Sigourney Weaver "Rambolina" in Aliens, they quickly crowned the comely Kathleen Turner Indy's female counterpart, despite the fact that on-screen squeeze Michael Douglas does most of the stunts. Turner proved, however, she could swing on a vine almost as well as Tarzan, and—much more importantly—that a woman could, on occasion, successfully headline an action flick.

When first released, Romancing the Stone was something of a novelty, and audiences—especially women—responded to the insecure, lonely heroine who's thrust into an exotic atmosphere packed with danger, intrigue, and adventure galore. The film seems a bit antiquated today (especially when compared to more modern, effects-laden fare), but still retains its charm, thanks to an endearing plot and Turner's down-to-earth performance. The sexy siren best known for portraying fatal femmes in Body Heat and Prizzi's Honor shows off her softer side, and willingly de-glams herself, looking downright frumpy early in the film, and gamely frolicking in mud pools later on. Oh sure, she cleans up real nice, and more than a few scenes allow us to drink in her natural allure, but if you're looking for a sweat-drenched Matty Walker in heat, try another movie.

Romance novelist Joan Wilder (Turner) is the polar opposite of the Body Heat mantrap and about as intrepid as Indiana Jones' grandmother, preferring to hole herself up with her beloved cat in her cramped New York City apartment than experience the pulsing metropolis outside her doorstep. That all changes, however, when she receives a desperate call for help from her sister in Colombia. Before she knows it, the acrophobic Joan finds herself on a plane to South America and the central character in a plot as wildly adventurous (and ultimately amorous) as her own far-fetched novels. And like her bodice-heaving damsels-in-distress, Joan needs a white knight to shield her from the native vultures and ever looming bad guys. The grungy, opportunistic Jack Colton (Douglas) may not fit her romantic ideals (at first), but he sure fills the bill, swooping into the picture in the nick of time, saving Joan's shapely ass, and helping her find and rescue her wayward sibling.

Like typical oil-and-water couples, Jack and Joan bicker and spar, smooch and cuddle, as they narrowly escape one impossible predicament after another. And that's what makes the movie so much fun. Director Robert Zemeckis only occasionally lets the pacing lag, and maintains a light tone even when the storyline gets tense. Douglas may be a poor man's Indy, but still makes an appropriately dashing hero—cocky enough to gain the respect of his macho peers, but with an underlying sensitivity sure to melt feminine hearts—while Danny DeVito, in one of his first important roles, provides ample comic relief as an amateur kidnapper up to his eyeballs in trouble.

Romancing the Stone is definitely a woman's picture, but guys—try as they might—won't be able to resist it either. Douglas, Turner, and DeVito make a winning triumvirate, and keep this rare something-for-everyone adventure hopping.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Why a studio would re-release a popular title as a special edition without giving its existing letterboxed transfer an anamorphic upgrade is beyond me, but that's exactly what the folks at Fox have done. Yet once one gets past that initial disappointment, it's tough not to revel in the first-rate picture quality, which boasts marvelous clarity, beautifully saturated colors, and above average contrast. The Mexican scenery that doubles for Colombia looks lush and exotic, while close-ups flaunt a vibrancy most 20-year-old films lack. Even night scenes shot in minimal light never seem muddy. Enhanced widescreen transfers still rule, but this is one of the best flat presentations I've seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoSpanishyes
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Even action movies with a feminine twist deserve 5.1 audio, but alas, Romancing the Stone only comes armed with a Dolby stereo track. The sound, however, remains crisp and clear throughout, with only a few muffled lines of dialogue littering the track. Alan Silvestri's bouncy '80s score enjoys good fidelity, and mild separation often gives a surround impression. Effects such as gunfire, mudslides, and torrential rain don't possess the sonic pop one expects, but add essential atmosphere and excitement to the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Sentinel
8 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 54m:08s

Extras Review: This special edition DVD isn't exactly packed with supplements (no commentary track, storyboard or photo galleries, or gag reel), but what's included is interesting and entertaining. Though deleted scenes can often seem superfluous, the eight included on the Romancing the Stone disc actually possess some weight, giving viewers a fascinating glimpse of a film's evolution during production. Several of the excised sequences were reworked and reshot so they fit more snugly into the finished whole, with one character even undergoing a sex change. It's a shame, however, that these clips lack comments from the director, who could certainly shed light on why the alterations were made.

The rest of the extras fall into the featurette category, and continue to illuminate the movie. Fans will especially enjoy the central documentary, Rekindling the Romance: A Look Back, a 20-minute piece that intercuts recent interviews with Douglas, Turner, and DeVito with rare behind-the-scenes footage and snippets from the film. Douglas provides the most substantive comments, discussing how he "discovered" screenwriter Diane Thomas and gave director Zemeckis his first big break. He also divulges that he tried in vain to interest other actors in the part of Jack Colton (including, reportedly, Sylvester Stallone and Christopher Reeve), so he had to play the role himself. Turner talks about how she, Douglas, and DeVito are "kindred spirits," and how she loved doing some of the physical stunts for the film—despite needing stitches on a couple of occasions. She and Douglas also describe some of the mishaps that occurred on set, while DeVito recalls how they "laughed their asses off" during filming.

The other featurettes include an all-too-brief, but nonetheless poignant, remembrance of screenwriter Thomas, who died in a car accident at age 39 (in a Porsche that was, ironically, a gift from Douglas); a chance for the trio of stars to cite their favorite scenes in the film; and a couple of thoughtful recollections from Douglas, who also produced the movie. The featurettes run three, four, and two minutes, respectively.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Romancing the Stone whips thrills, romance, comedy, and action into an entertaining pastiche that's fun for the whole family. Fox spruces up its original release with a few slick, retrospective extras, but fails to provide the anamorphic transfer fans have been craving. As a result, double-dipping is discouraged, but if you haven't yet picked up this light-hearted adventure, there's no time like the present to cozy up to Douglas, Turner, and DeVito.

 


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