Film: Romancing the Stone

aka: Jewel Of The Nile
Jack Colton: "Wait a minute, he's after you? Who the hell are you?"
Joan Wilder: "Well, I'm a romance novelist."
Jack Colton: "You're what? What are you doing here?"
Joan Wilder: "I told you, my sister's life depends on me."
Jack Colton: "Ah, don't give me that shit. I thought you were donating a kidney or something."

An Affectionate Parody of romantic adventures that also qualifies as an example of the genre. This film was made in 1984 and stars Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, and Danny DeVito.

Kathleen Turner plays Joan Wilder, a successful author of mass-market romance novels — she has a very long-running series centered around the heroine Angelina and her love interest Jesse. Unfortunately, success in her career doesn't translate to success in her love life. Even her publisher chides her on her unrealistic expectations, and accuses her of waiting around for a Jesse of her own.

Her life changes when a mysterious package arrives in her mail. The return address lists her brother-in-law, who was recently found hacked into little pieces in Colombia. Joan then receives a phone call from her sister, who's being held hostage. Her kidnappers are looking for a very specific map, one that used to belong her husband. Opening the package, Joan finds the map's now in her possession, and the kidnappers will kill her sister unless she delivers it to them. In Colombia.

Unfortunately for Joan, her knowledge of the locale is limited, to say the least. She starts her adventure by boarding the wrong bus on the advice of a not-so-friendly local. It turns out, the kidnappers aren't the only ones interested in her treasure map. Her troubles worsen when her bus crashes, thrusting her right into the path of a mysterious stranger. Little does she know he's the man of her dreams.

Adventure ensues.

The first commercially successful film in the Robert Zemeckis canon. Diane Thomas, the movie's screenwriter, was famously discovered by Michael Douglas working as a waitress. After Stone she seemed on the verge of a great career, before dying tragically in a car accident just a year later. Thus this became the only film she ever wrote. There's now a screenwriting award named in her honor.

A sequel called The Jewel Of The Nile was also released. Zemeckis was not involved, as he was busy at the time with a little film called Back to the Future, nor was Thomas, although she was still living when it went into production (she's one of the people the movie's dedicated to). Turner, Douglas, and DeVito all returned, however.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adrenaline Makeover: Joan begins the movie mousy and stiff with a perpetual sloppy hair bun. By the time she returns from Colombia, she's changed her whole look, starting with literally letting her hair down.
  • Action Survivor
  • Adventurer Archaeologist: Jack Colton. Actually he's more like "adventurer".
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking - From the opening scene:
    That was the end of Grogan... the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog, and stole my Bible!
    • Values Dissonance: Granted, in some periods and cultures someone's Bible was often a huge deal. Especially if it's a family Bible.
  • Badass: Jack Colton and Zolo.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ralph calls his cousin Ira "maricon", which is Spanish slur roughly translated as "faggot."
  • Blatant Lies: Ira's promises that he would never hurt Ralph because "they're the same person" and "I'd never hurt me!", and especially his promise at the end to send the boat back "very soon". It's no wonder Ralph turns on him.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: Ralph. Would be a Butt Monkey if he weren't so contemptible as to deserve almost everything that happens to him.
  • Cat Scare: When Joan returns to her apartment and finds it vandalized, her pet cat Romeo startles her by jumping out at her
  • Call Back: At the beginning of the film, the villain of the book Joan is writing tells the heroine, "You can die two ways: quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than molasses in January." During the film's climax, Zolo poses a similar question: "How will you die, Joan Wilder? Slow, like... a snail? Or fast, like a shooting star?"
  • Catch Phrase: Ira's "Look at those snappers!"
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Joan is getting ready to rush off to Colombia, her publisher Gloria mentions, amongst a list of terrible traits to be found amongst the locals, that there are a lot of "macho men" there who love her books. Later, what looks like a tense gunpoint scene turns into a chance to procure a valuable ally, just because it turns out that Juan the drug-runner is Joan's biggest fan, and reads her novels to his mooks, who are fans too.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ira (Look at those snappers!) to a degree, but most definitely Juan, the drug-runner and Joan's Biggest Fan.
  • Contrived Coincidence: All over the place. The package with the map is too big to fit in the mailbox, so Joan's neighbor gives it to her as she's on her way out to meet her publisher; thus it isn't there when her apartment gets ransacked. When Zolo misdirects Joan into getting on the wrong bus, it happens to take her into the heart of the province where the map says El Corazon is hidden. And of course, Jack's jeep happening to be parked in the middle of the road, causing the bus to crash when Joan distracted the driver.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jack Colton.
  • Death Trap: In Jewel, the villain puts our heroes in one, then describes how it works in lingering detail. Jack asks what kind of depraved mind comes up with such a monstrosity. Joan diffidently informs him it's from one of her novels.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Lovable Rogue (among other archetypes). Joan fantasizes about rugged, rough and tumble men of adventure, and then she actually meets a real one - Jack T. Colton - and finds that the real thing isn't all that easy to deal with.
  • Determined Homesteader's Wife: Angelina draws liberally from the archetype.
  • Disc One Final Boss: The movie is initially set up with it looking like Ira and Ralph are the main villains due to the kidnapping and ransom plot. Zolo's first appearance is in fact a Red Herring in this regard, since it takes place just before Joan receives the critical phone call—thus suggesting he was sent by them to find the map, and only after he failed to recover it did they call to set up the ransom demand. It isn't until Zolo's real identity is revealed that the viewer realizes who the true Big Bad is, though perhaps the buffoonish nature of Ralph and Ira might have tipped them off sooner.
  • Double Subversion: After obtaining the map, just when it seems he will pull a You Said You Would Let Them Go on Joan and Elaine, Ira...actually does release them. Then, just when it seems they've gotten away scot-free, gunshots suddenly ring out. It appears that Jack has come to rescue them...only to have it revealed he's been captured by the Big Bad.
    • Another, minor example is the expectation Joan and Jack both seem to have that no one in Colombia speaks English or has access to modern technology. With Joan, being the Na´ve Newcomer and Fish out of Water that she is, it is understandable, but Jack has been living there over a year and a half and should know how frequently English is spoken—if not by a random drug runner, then at least by the staff of a hotel which has to deal with foreign tourists.
    • And one more: the villagers tell Joan and Jack that Juan has a car. When they have managed to befriend him and ask about it, Juan laughs it off, telling them the villagers were pulling their leg, and that "they must have meant my little mule, Pepe". Cue incredulous looks from the heroes...followed by The Reveal that indeed Pepe is no car.
  • Dramatic Thunder: During the confrontation at the fort.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The finale, where Joan's exchange with Ira is ambushed by General Zolo, who in turn was led there by capturing first Ralph, then Jack. Made literal when Ira's men shoot it out with Zolo's as a means to cover Ira's escape.
  • Fake-Out Opening
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Averted. They don't get married until the sequel.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Jack has to choose between rescuing Joan from Zolo, or getting the stone back from the crocodile that swallowed it. He chooses love, of course...only to have his gun be out of bullets, so that he has to climb the wall. And by the time he gets there, she's already rescued herself. He's surprisingly not too upset about this.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: When Zolo asks Ralph if they've met, Ralph says 'no comprendo'. Zolo asks if he's an American (since when he met Ralph earlier, he was speaking in an American accent). Ralph hastily says in badly broken Spanish, and that he isn't an American, he hates them.
    Ralph: I hate Americano! I spit on 'em! Ptui! American scum-o! Scum-o!
    Zolo: Etes-vous Francais? (Are you French?)
  • Genre Savvy: When Jack finds nothing but a kid's porcelain bunny at the end of the map and laments all their trouble in search of The Stone, Joan points out that in one of her books, she hid the treasure inside a statue. Guess where The Stone turned up.
  • Groin Attack: Ouch, poor Jack.
  • Horseback Heroism: Jesse, in the opening scene
  • I Should Write a Book About This
  • I'm Your Biggest Fan: Juan is a huge fan of Joan's books.
  • Inevitable Waterfall
  • Intoxication Ensues: Well, when all you have to burn for warmth is kilos and kilos of marijuana, you gotta do what you gotta do.
    Jack: [leans back out of a cloud of smoke with a goofy smile on his face] Now that's what I call a campfire.
  • Insistent Terminology: Mondo dismal, which Joan and her publisher call men who take advantage of women.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Michael Douglas as Jack.
  • Karmic Death: Averted. We're led to believe that it's gonna be the villain who always plays with his crocodiles But it's actually Zolo that gets eaten by them.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Zolo. When he's around there's always a sense of threat and fear particularly where Ira speaks about 'em.
  • MacGuffin: The eponymous stone. Also, the map.
  • Mary Sue: invoked Angelina in Joan's novels.
  • Mixed Metaphor: Joan turns Grogan's metaphors into this. He says he's gonna either kill her 'quick like the tongue of a snake, or slower than the molasses in January.' 'But it was October', she protests.
    Grogan: I'd kill ya if it was the Fourth of July!
  • Most Writers Are Writers: By a female writer about a female author.
  • Oh, Crap: Jack gets a good one (both verbal and expression-wise) just after Joan falls down the mudslide, and just before he gets sucked down after her.
  • One-Film Screenwriter: Diane Thomas, against her will.
  • Qurac: Kadir in Jewel of the Nile.
  • Ramp Jump: Lupe's Escape
  • Real Song Theme Tune: Subverted. Eddy Grant (known better for "Electric Avenue") recorded "Romancing The Stone" with intent to make it a pop hit and Oscar Bait — but it was edited down to background music playing when Joan and Jack are permitted to enter the Bellmaker's home.
  • Rope Bridge
    • An aged trestle, actually. Jack was apparently being hyperbolic.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Joan. Jack too.
  • She's Got Legs: Jack takes a few chances to ogle Joan's legs in the jungle.
  • Skeleton Crew: The crashed drug-smuggling plane in the Colombian jungle has the mummified corpses of two pilots still in their seats—one even acts as the Peek-A-Boo Corpse. Jack and Joan find refuge from the rain in the fuselage and raid the pilots' personal belongings for food and drink.
  • Stab the Scorpion
  • Standard Snippet: The main theme to How the West Was Won is used, uncredited, during the Fakeout Opening, presumably as a stand-in for "epic exciting Western". The fact Joan is shown wearing headphones when she finishes writing the scene suggests this is actually a case of Left the Background Music On.
  • Suggestive Collision: Jack and Joan tumble down a muddy incline together, landing in a shallow pool... with his head between her legs.
  • Title Drop: Almost. Ralph says, "At least I'm honest - I'm stealing this stone. I ain't tryin' to romance it out from under her!"
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Ira and Ralph.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Both played straight and subverted. Played straight in the Fake-Out Opening when Angelina throws the knife strapped to her thigh to kill Grogan. Subverted when Joan tries to pull the same trick on Zolo. He blocks it with the branch he's using to attack her with, and then tries to kill her with that instead.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Joan. She starts out the movie as a mousey, cringing Damsel in Distress, but by the end of it she's throwing switchblades, burning Zolo with his own cigar, bashing him with a broken board right in his handless stump, knocking him onto a lantern, and dodging so that he falls into a pit of crocodiles. How far she's come is first hinted at during the start of hostilities at the fort: when the guns start going off, Elaine (whom Joan had initially thought was the stronger sister) faints, but Joan doesn't even bat an eye, simply helping her up and dragging her off to safety elsewhere.
  • Treasure Map
  • Verbing Nouny
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Not Ralph and Ira who are too bufoonish and incompetent to count, but the sadist and cruel Zolo is too serious and frightening for an 80's family movie.
  • Wasn't That Fun?: When Jack faceplanted between Joan's legs after a mudslide. Of course, he was talking about the mudslide, not the faceplant. Probably.

Alternative Title(s):

Jewel Of The Nile, Romancing The Stone, The Jewel Of The Nile