Although it's not nearly as fresh or invigorating as its predecessor, the semi-classic Romancing the Stone, Lewis Teague's The Jewel of the Nile starts off with a clever enough conceit -- what happens after the heroine and her hunky Prince Charming have sailed off into Happy Endingsville? -- and manages to bring just enough color and good humor to keep the fans satisfied. Here we have a new director (Teague replacing Zemeckis) and two new screenwriters, along with the trio of returning stars, hoping to extend their good fortune to at least one additional windfall. So while The Jewel of the Nile is generally considered the lesser of two movies, the truth is that it, too, was a real box office hit, and the flick still maintains a solid number of fans.
As Part 2 kicks off, Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) and Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) are six months into their whirlwind, globe-trotting love affair. Only problem is, the lovers have grown a little bit tired of one another. Joan wants Jack to accompany her back to New York City, while Mr. Colton simply wants to ride his yacht down to Greece. The tensions come to a head when a mega-wealthy North African prince invites Joan to his kingdom and write his biography. Jack, ever the petulant hero, decides to bail on Joan and simply head on down to Greece all by himself. (Meanwhile, goofy little Ralph (Danny DeVito) is hiding in the background, just waiting for the opportunity to commit some mild comedic villainy.)
Anyway, Jack and Ralph learn that Joan remains in serious trouble as long as she stays close to the sleazy African prince, so off they go to rescue her. And there's also the issue of the "Jewel of the Nile," which isn't the sort of gem you'd normally expect to find in this type of movie. Eventually Joan catches wind of the prince's nasty side, and so she promptly plans an escape while befriending a curious new ally.
True, the flick takes a good long while to get rolling, and it does seem just a little ... off to see our globe-trotting pals caught up in a rather nastily realistic religio-political-type war scenario, but the three leads still keep the adventure chugging along smoothly enough. On the upside, Danny DeVito is given a bit more to do this time around, and that little Jersey guy always makes me laugh.
On the downside, director Lewis Teague (who, as director of Alligator, Cat's Eye and Cujo, is a filmmaker I admire) doesn't seem to have a whole lot of skill where action sequences are concerned. One of the movie's biggest set-pieces, in which Jack and Joan try to escape inside of a fighter jet, is long and loud and rather annoyingly unconvincing. Even worse, The Jewel of the Nile often feels a lot like a TV movie, laden as it is with distracting ADR dialogue, cardboard-y sets, and local extras who have no problem staring directly into the camera lens.
Basically, it says a whole lot about the combined charms and talents of Douglas, Turner, and DeVito that The Jewel of the Nile is even watchable. The screenplay contains several quality quips and concepts, but on the whole, this is another somewhat over-bloated quickie sequel that was just lucky enough to get the stars back -- and while it's definitely not an awful little adventure flick, The Jewel of the Nile stands as a pretty good indication as to why the guys never reunited for a third adventure. (Although they did get together for DeVito's fantastic War of the Roses.)
Video: The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer is quite crisp and clean, even if the movie itself isn't exactly an eye-popping bedazzlement. (Basically, it's a very flat and dry-looking flick, which is pretty odd, seeing as how it was shot by Jan De Bont.)
Audio: Dolby Digital 4.0 Surround, which sounds pretty excellent, despite a rather ponderous musical score. Also included are a French 2.0 and Spanish mono track. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Right off the bat we have a slight improvement over the Romancing the Stone DVD: Director Lewis Teague (one of my favorite '80s directors; he also did Alligator, Cujo and Cat's Eye) contributes a pretty solid feature-length audio commentary. It's a rather strong commentary track, as Mr. Teague proves to be an enthusiastic and affable guy, and he rattles through his war stories rather amicably. Fans of the film should definitely enjoy Teague's track, although considering all the silent spots, he might have been better served by inviting a chat-partner.
Next up are a half-dozen deleted scenes, which can be viewed via "Play All" (5:39) or as individual chapters: A Toast to Joan Wilder, With the People, "Need Water," "This Ain't Easy You Know," "Jack, I Wish We Would Have Gone to Greece," and The Ceremony.
Then we have a pair of featurettes:
Romancing the Nile: A Winning Sequel (20:56) features the three main stars (Douglas, Turner, DeVito) as well as screenwriter Mark Rosenthal and director Lewis Teague, as they look back on their follow-up. Ms. Turner bluntly addresses her initial skepticism with the project, but everyone involved seems to have (generally) happy memories of the Nile. (You'll notice a few repeated segments from the Romancing the Stone featurettes.)
Adventures of a Romance Novelist (7:59) is basically Rosenthal's recap of the Jewel of the Nile plot, for anyone who doesn't have time to watch the whole movie.
Rounding out the package are the Jewel of the Nile theatrical trailer and an 8-page booklet with production notes and chapter titles.
It suffers from flimsy plotting, strained action scenes, and very lethargic pacing, but when the three leads get together and start trading barbs and bullets, there's some real (albeit intermittent) fun to be found here.