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Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Retro Review: The Jewel Of The Nile (1985)

The Jewel of the Nile
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny Devito
Genre: Action-Adventure Romantic Comedy
U.S Lifetime Gross: $96.7 million 

Plot: Novelist Joan Wilder is living with adventurer boyfriend, Jack Colton on his yacht. But she leaves when Omar, the head of a North African nation, asks her to visit his country and write about him. Jack intends to go on a pleasure cruise to Greece, but when he learns that Joan is a pawn in Omar's quest to polish his image & gain greater power, he partners with continent-hopping criminal, Ralph in a quest to free her. 

'A Highly Ambitious Yet Lightweight Rom- Com Action Sequel Caper That Doesn't Quite Measure Up To Romancing The Stone'

The Jewel of the Nile sees the return of Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny Devito and is one of the number of movie sequels that gets bashed a lot by critics and movie viewers in general. One person who doesn't return for this sequel however, is director Robert Zemeckis, who was responsible for the first movie. 

Whereas in the first film it was set in the jungle, The Jewel of the Nile is set in Africa - and that's Africa as in Egypt. The Nile being in Egypt. Compared to Romancing The Stone, it doesn't quite hit the spot in every respect. Likewise, this movie does fall short through its narrative; there isn't anything particular new or different compared to that film, but as a film alone, this is a pretty decent offering. 

The opening of this movie is so far-fetched yet absurd, with a dream sequence where Jack and Joan are characters in a romantic novel that she is writing and he fights pirates on board of a ship and rescues Joan. The story of The Jewel of the Nile resumes 6 months after the ending of Romancing The Stone and Jack and Joan have gotten sick of each other, with Jack wanting to sail to Greece and Joan wanting to return to New York. Joan accepts an invitation to go to Africa to write a story, - only to get kidnapped and Jack goes in search for her, whilst Joan is in search of the so-called ''Jewel''. In this movie, they separate for a short while, only to find each other, reunite and get back together and get married. Danny Devito, who was in the first movie is back, and he is siding with Jack one minute, turning his back on him the next. You never know what to expect from him. Compared to the previous offering, his role is much smaller than it was before and he doesn't have as many scenes. 

Both Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas still ooze chemistry together as Joan Wilder and Jack Colton.... and that chemistry is sometimes more entertaining to watch than the plot contrivances- I sensed by watching this movie and the prequel that they were made for each other and they looked terrific in this film. As Jack and Joan, they fought and argued back and forth with each other, they separate and then reunite kiss and make up, they make wisecracks. On the other hand, Jack isn't as adventurous and gung-ho as he was before, but I guess that's what happens he falls in love with Joan and he becomes more of a softy and settles down.  

The Jewel of the Nile is a fun, light-hearted -yet solid romantic action- adventure romp. It is action-packed with some suspense, romance and love, stunts and intrigue. It's very much one would expect from an Indiana Jones- style caper. That, and that it has a okay script as well. 

There were rumours that Kathleen didn't want to appear in the sequel and Michael Douglas, who co-produces this movie, also only wanted to have just one movie. Yet the contract stipulated a sequel and we in turn got one. And there are also slight criticisms about the racial undertones and colourblind casting, not to mention the stereotyped ethnic characters but in all fairness, those issues are minor and one I can overlook. It was also the period of the mid-1980s: a decade where it was more naive and innocent, in contrast to today where had those things been in a movie of this nature, there would be controversy and criticism. 

And yes, the movie is predictable but what action-adventure movie isn't. I actually found this one just as watchable, entertaining and interesting as - if not better than the first film. The writing of The Jewel of the Nile isn't as strong as Romancing The Stone, particularly with the climax, which isn't as great as I wanted it to be, which is evident as none of the writers of the first movie were reprised. 

The film, for me, starts to fall off the margin, right after the scene where Jack and Joan sleep with each other. Some of the scenes during the last third went on a bit too longer than they should've and we don't really see more of their chemistry, besides the love scene. Without Robert Zemeckis at the helm, The Jewel of the Nile lacks some of its predecessor's bite, spirit and deftness. In addition, Jack was less adventurous and Indiana Jones - like and more like laid- back, Jack. Though it was good to see Joan Wilder being less of a damsel in distress and not always relying on Jack to bail her out of difficult situations. I think here, we see in this movie the role reversals of those characters: In Romancing The Stone, Jack was the adventurous, bold and daring one and Joan was slightly timid, scared witless at times, often vulnerable. And here with The Jewel of the Nile, Jack is less of the gung-ho macho type, what with him setting his sights on travelling to Greece and Joan loving the thrill of the ride and wanting to be part of it, once more. 

The ending was a nice and fitting conclusion.

Final Verdict

This is a highly ambitious, light-hearted action adventure romantic romp with some good action sequences and some romance along the way. But without Zemeckis's direction, the movie doesn't quite measure up to its predecessor. It doesn't provide much in the way of one or two standout scenes and the writing isn't as strong as in Romancing The Stone. At most, I found this as good as that movie, but not better. Though in Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner, they make for one fine on-screen couple and Danny Devito's character, Ralph is less of an irritant than before. 

Whilst some will insist a sequel to Romancing The Stone was unnecessary, I thought otherwise - and yet this film just doesn't offer more or do anything we have not yet seen before to make it spectacular and better than that movie. 

Overall, The Jewel of The Nile is a sequel that almost and tries to be as strong as the prequel, though as a standalone effort, it is still a worthy movie to watch, especially for the scenes involving Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner together. 


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