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.
- 20th Century Fox
- 105 min
- Robert Zemeckis
- Diane Thomas
- Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Zack Norman, Alfonso Arau
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