Romancing the Stone

Romancing the Stone
Apparently there is a remake of 1984’s “Romancing the Stone” in the works. My question is, why? Are there no original screenplays or books left to adapt? I guess the assumption is if the formula worked before, it will work again. Remake it and they will come.

With a skillful mixture of romance, adventure and comedy, “Romancing the Stone” has something for everybody. Kathleen Turner, one of the hottest actresses of the 80s, plays Joan Wilder, a timid romance novelist whose bodice ripper-style books may reflect her fantasies but not her life. Except for a fantasy man named “Jesse” who pops up in her books, the only male in her life is her cat. Her placid life changes when she gets a mysterious map mailed from her recently murdered brother-in-law Eduardo in Columbia, This map is very much wanted by two criminal factions – one a corrupt government official and the other, two bumbling crooks. (Danny DeVito plays Ralph, one of the crooks and he is a hoot!)

When her sister is kidnapped, Joan must travel to Columbia for an exchange – the map for Elaine’s life. Dressed in her best suit and high heels, carrying a suitcase and a down coat (it’s winter in New York), and armed with a Spanish-English dictionary, Joan arrives in Columbia. The situation quickly goes awry when she’s directed to the wrong bus by a suave stranger who doesn’t have her best interests at heart. The rickety bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Joan’s in danger but like the heroine in her novels, she’s saved by a mystery man named Jack T. Colton (the “T” stands for trouble, he smirkingly tells her later), played by Michael Douglas. The problem is, Jack doesn’t act like one of her romance novel heroes. He’s crude, rude and doesn’t care a whit about her problems, until she offers him money to take her to the rendezvous point with the kidnappers – Cartegena.

Jack realizes that the map which everyone wants is really a treasure map. He proposes to Joan that they find this treasure and trade it for her sister. There are thrills a-plenty as the bad guys pursue the couple across the country in pursuit of la Corazon – the Heart. Joan begins to see elements of her fictional “Jesse” in her reluctant rescuer. She begins to fall for her and he seems to fall for her. But she’s not sure which “heart” he’s really after.

“Romancing the Stone” is a fun ride and there are plenty of those, from a slippery mudslide to a more standard truck chase. The minor characters are colourful and include a drug-dealing Bronco-driving Joan Wilder fan eager to help, Joan’s cynical agent, and a kidnapper with a alligator fetish. Turner and Douglas mesh completely with each other and their characters. It’s hard to imagine anyone else filling their shoes in a remake.

The screenplay was pitched to Michael Douglas by a writer making ends meet as a waitress. Sadly it was Diane Thomas’s one and only success. She died in a car wreck not long after the movie was made.

“Romancing the Stone” is rated PG. A sequel, “The Jewel of the Nile”, followed in 1985, reuniting Turner, Douglas and DeVito.

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