No era was better for cheesy action movies than the 80s, and Romancing the Stone is no exception. Julie and I remember our mothers loving this movie, though I think I’d only seen it once myself, briefly. Julie had seen it before but wanted to watch it again so it made our list of classics to revisit. It’s a great date night at home movie, funny, action-packed, corny, and fun.
Released in 1984, Romancing the Stone is a romantic comedy action movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. The movie was directed by Robert Zemeckis, and written by Diane Thomas. The story is about a romance author, looking for the perfect leading man for her recently finished book, who gets a call from her sister that she needs to bring a map to South America or her sister will be killed. She gets the mentioned map sent to her by her recently murdered brother-in-law, and runs off to save her sister. That’s where author Joan Wilder (Turner) meets smuggler Jack Colton (Douglas). Adventure and romance follows as Jack helps Joan find the treasure, save her sister, and thwart the bad guys.
The movie is sort of a fantasy becomes reality story where a hopeless romantic author finds the heart-throb she needs for her latest book, but more importantly, finds herself. It’s a story that many have tried to replicate, to less-than stellar success throughout the years. Contrary to popular ideas about movies from this era, Joan is not the damsel and she doesn’t fall for the roguish Jack immediately. She has a naïve view of the world, mostly due to having never left her own part of it, but she’s not dumb or flighty. Jack didn’t treat her like she was weak, or special. It would be considered revolutionary, if one believes all the stigma about how movies were made back then, but not if you actually watched those movies.
The story itself is pretty standard. Two people who start out not really liking each other, from two different worlds, are thrown together in a dangerous situation. As Julie noted, it’s done better than many in that respect because Jack doesn’t come off as a douche bag right away, and genuinely comforts Joan when she is scared by the situation and her new surroundings. She’s a stranger in a strange land, and he’s the experienced connection as another American who is familiar with the foreign landscape. She believes she needs him, but along the way finds her own place, and become the hero of her own story.
Of course, it’s an 80s comedy, so you have all the ridiculousness one might expect. A strange monster truck chase, after Joan finds out a local crime lord is a fan of her work. Two different groups of villains, the bumbling fool (Danny Devito), and the essential South American corrupt military officer. You have lots of guns, explosions, and smart comedy. It’s genuinely funny, without trying too hard, and without being stupid. Another thing that many modern movies struggle to emulate. Something else that Julie noted when we watched it. It’s the perfect romcom, before romcom was a thing (I think). It’s got action, it’s funny, and the romance is believable outside the circumstances that threw them together.
It comes highly recommended as a classic worth watching again. See it for the first time, if you haven’t already.