It's a rare day in Hollywood when all the cosmic forces align and a near-perfect entertainment is forged. Of course, it's even rarer when those forces are attempted to be successfully summoned again for a sequel should the first film be a huge hit. Romancing the Stone was a singular sensation when it was released, so hopes were high that Jewel of the Nile, its follow up, would find the same balance between action-adventure and romance. Unfortunately, lightning wasn't destined to strike twice, and while Jewel has its pleasures, it's for the most part a pretty tame and pale imitation of its progenitor.
Part of the problem with Jewel is that Romancing the Stone ended, as it should have, happily, with romance author Joan Wilder and ne'er-do-well adventurer (and birdnapper) Jack Colton embracing as they literally rode (a boat, but who's arguing details?) into the sunset. That would seem to pretty much preclude the artful bantering and sexual tension that underlay a lot of the first film. Co-scenarists Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner, taking over from Stone's creator (and former waitress) Diane Thomas, attempt to finesse that by portraying the couple several months later, after the bloom is off the rose, so to speak. Joan is suffering from writer's block, while Jack is suffering from wanderlust, and, as might be expected, never the two shall meet. Soon Joan is offered the chance to do some "serious" biographical work, of a Middle Eastern modern sultan of sorts, and takes off, leaving Jack in the lurch, where his dream boat is quickly blown up and he finds out that Joan has probably been taken hostage by the sultan, evidently one of those stereotypical Middle Eastern madmen types.
It's all cobbled together, with the seams pretty much showing throughout. Joan's wish to be taken seriously appears pretty much out of nowhere, the machinations that get Jack and Danny DeVito involved are forced, to say the least, and there's just very little of the joie de vivre that infused the first effort. It's odd, especially considering the fact that since Romancing the Stone had been such a success, producer-star Douglas obviously had a bigger budget to work with this time, but you can throw a lot of money at a project and still not have much to show for it. Despite the rather bizarre stunt casting of such performers as The Flying Karamazov Brothers, a lot of Jewel of the Nile feels stale and overheated.
This is all not to say that there aren't pleasures to be had here--Turner, Douglas and DeVito make an extremely charming lead trio, and they play their characters to the hilt here. Joan is more confident and in control here, as befits the changes she underwent in Romancing the Stone, and Jack is a little less ascerbic toward her, as befits his putative status of being head over heels in love with her. DeVito actually has a little less to do, plot-wise, this time around, and is relegated to the wisecracking also ran role, something relatively thankless but which he plays for all its worth. There's also a lot of gorgeous, if barren, desert scenery here, and an appealing supporting performance by Avner Eisenberg as the prophesied leader who will unite warring factions in that fractious region of the globe that is so often in the news.
Jewel of the Nile is a patchwork quilt of some screwball comedy clichés mixed uneasily with action-adventure woven around a plot filled with political intrigue. It's at once too busy and too bare for its own good, noisy and garish, sort of like a circus run amok, something that's actually portrayed, more or less, in one brief sequence when The Flying Karamazov Brothers demonstrate their juggling skills. Maybe they should have been in charge of the film, for its disparate elements are juggled unfortunately fairly poorly.
After the rather excellent transfer of Romancing the Stone, I was amazed to find Jewel of the Nile's 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer (in a 2.35:1 OAR) something that literally paled in comparison, despite the obvious fact that this was a newer film. While detail is sharp, colors seem strangely muted throughout, without the generous saturation that Stone exhibited.
The HD DTS 5.1 soundtrack has noticably more separation and channel utilization than Romancing the Stone. While Jewel, like Stone, is still a little light on the low frequencies, there's considerable depth to the soundscape here, with some good use of ambient sound effects. There are also French DD 2.0 and Spanish mono mixes available, as well as subtitles in all the soundtrack languages plus Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean.
Director Lewis Teague's commentary is pretty standard fare, but both the deleted scenes and "Romancing the Nile" featurette help to give some backstory into the making of the sequel and how it was shaped during production (though there's only passing mention of Turner's on-again off-again decisions to participate in the sequel). As with Romancing, the annoying decision to cut up interview segments into various supposedly unrelated featurettes is done again here, with another shorter piece called "Adventures of a Romance Novelist."
Jewel of the Nile struggles mightily to recapture the magic of Romancing the Stone, and while its stars are game, the screenplay never rises to the giddy heights of the original. Turner, Douglas and DeVito are still always fun to watch, so you could probably do worse than to Rent It for an evening's entertainment.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet