In its first frame, Romancing the Stone announces that it is a “Michael Douglas Production.” That’s for sure. Forget that Kathleen Turner plays the ostensible main character because this is a Douglas vanity project through and through. Directed by an unimaginative Robert Zemeckis three years after Raiders of the Lost Ark, it uses Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones franchise as the template through which to bolster Douglas’s public machismo. In his fantasy vision of modern American romance by way of international adventure, Douglas is the knight-in-shining-armor to leagues of hapless, single workingwomen who wade through life spoiling their cats and waiting for the right man. Joan Wilder (Turner) is such a woman, a New York-based writer of trashy romance novels set in the Old West whose fiction-as-wet-dream is recreated in the opening sequence. Zemeckis sets this up as parody—a scantily clad belle is swept up from danger by her gun-slinging lover—but it will be repeated without irony over the next 100 minutes, as Wilder attempts to rescue her kidnapped sister from a dangerous Colombia and Douglas’s hunky woodsman steps in to assist her. Critics still complain about the cultural insults of Indiana Jones, but Zemeckis imparts his film with more xenophobia and male self-importance than Spielberg could’ve imagined. I’m not sure which is more hilarious, the menacing little Colombian kid who captures Wilder’s rich, white sister with a children’s toy or the many moments during which Turner cries into Douglas’s bulging biceps. It’s sometimes unclear when the story is being played for gentle laughs and when it’s dead-serious, but the message is clear: Love and protection comes with a white face and a big, black gun. His name is Michael Douglas.
Romancing the Stone looks as good as it probably ever will in this Special Edition DVD. The image is sharp, if a little flat and gray. Sound is also clear, not that those loud cymbal clashes indicating danger needed much technical excellence.
Included in the special features are a number of deleted scenes that expand upon the movie's central romance, best left on the cutting room floor. There are also a number of featurettes much cuter than the movie, in which actors and filmmakers remember the production: "Rekindling the Romance: A Look Back," "A Hidden Treasure: The Screenwriter," "Douglas, Turner and DeVito: Favorite Scenes," and "Michael Douglas Remembers." Best of all is when Turner recalls being asked if she "could play dowdy."
His name is Jack T. Colton. What's the "T" stand for? "Trustworthy."