Jewel Of The Nile
Whenever a film does reasonably well at the box office, there is cure to be a push to produce a sequel. There are rare movies that can rise to the level of the original such as ‘Godfather II’ and ‘Aliens’ but the more typical way to go is for the subsequent movie to fall flat. There is a third category of sequels that are often not considered but it is out there. These are movies that manage to perform well even if they are unable to match the original. An example of this is ‘Jewel of the Nile.’ This film, released in 1985 was the follow up to the hit action-comedy ‘Romancing the Stone.’ It is only natural for a studio to want to recapture the success of a hit movie. After all they are in the movie business which is responsible to investors and shareholders. They also have a duty to the audience who ultimately pays for it all with our ticket and DVD purchases.
Many stories have been around about how ‘Jewel’ was done only because the cast had a legal contractual obligation for a second film. This is true but at least in this particular case they seemed to have taken it in stride and had some fun doing it. ‘Jewel’ fails to achieve the sheer energy of ‘Stone’ but it stands on its own as a solid piece of entertainment. As far as sequels go it is not bad at all. Still, with that said, ‘Jewel’ has more faults than the original and does less to overcome them. The enthusiasm of the cast helps but is unable to turn the tide fully. It does avoid the curse of the bombing sequel that has plagued a lot of horror franchises. The film has been on DVD for several years now. Keeping with the newest trend of re-releasing movies on Blu-ray has added this flick to the new high definition format. There are more likely than not those out there that wonder why waste high definition on a moderately passable sequel. The answer appears to be Fox is trying to expand the market for Blu-ray by providing a wide range of movies; this is just one. They also released the Blu-ray version of ‘Romancing the Stone’ so this is just right for those that want both films in the same format. It also demonstrates some respect for the fans by not forcing them to buy both if that is their choice.
The script here was based on characters created by Diane Thomas. She tragically died in a car accident in 1985. The screenplay was done by Mark Rosenthal and Lawrence Konner. The team worked together in one previous movie, the cult classic ‘Legend of Billie Jean.’ After this they continued with sequels providing scripts for ‘Superman IV: Quest for Peace,’ ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,’ and ‘Sometimes They Come Back". The pair also wrote the screenplays for the remake of the ‘Planet of the Apes’ the estrogen heavy ‘Mona Lisa Smile.’ Konner did strike off on his own with some television episodes for series including the ‘Sopranos.’. The men are talented and it is possible to overlook anything even ‘Superman IV’ which pretty much killed that franchise. It just seems that here they wrote themselves into a corner. They had the difficult task of recreating the energy of the first film while making this one fresh and original. Well, they managed to give an entertaining basis for more slapstick action but the characters of Joan and Jack have been left to stagnate. There is not much done with them this time other than placing them in pretty much the same circumstances. The main reason for this Konner and Rosenthal moved the characters away from the romance novel roots. In the original this self-parody drove the action and made the film something special. Without this slant this flick becomes just another action-comedy albeit with familiar characters.
One additional factor that prevented this film from rising to the level of the first is the direction. Lewis Teague took over the directorial responsibilities from Robert Zemeckis. While Teague is an experienced and hard-working director he doesn’t have the magic touch of Zemeckis. It was the sense of whimsy and adventure that made ‘Stone’ something special. Teague provides an enjoyable action-comedy but that certain something that is part of the unique style of Zemeckis was not recaptured. This movie is more about the troubles in the relationship between Joan and Jack. This grounds it too much in the real world and removes the sense that this is a romance novel come to life. There is the typical slapstick humor found in this one that helps the audience to have some fun but ultimately this is all sizzle and no steak. Credit has to be given to Teague for taking on a film like this. He is in the footsteps of a man who became one of the greats in his profession.
In the opening segment, we once again get a fantasy from one of Joan’s novels. This time the characters are Joan and Jack. They are happily married and living on their sailboat when it is boarded by pirates. Joan gives the only seat in the lifeboat to Jack and he leaves her behind. In real life the two are living together on his boat. She has a bad case of writer’s block that at least partially stems from refusal to commit to marriage. Joan receives a message from an Arab ruler Omar (Spiros Focás) who offers her a chance to write a piece about him. It is just a fluff piece and not her usual fare but Joan is tempted. She would also be treated like royalty while she is there on assignment. Ralph (Danny DeVito) gets out of prison and wants to take out his hatred on Jack by killing him. Jack is saved by Tarak (Paul David Magid) who also informs him that Omar has sinister plans that involve Joan. Omar has the country’s greatest treasure, the Jewel of the Nile in his possession and plans on leveraging that to dominate the nation. One Joan gets to the little country she finds out that Omar is a dictator suppressing the population with draconian measures. He imprisons Joan still wanting her to write something that makes him look good. Jack has to rescue Joan. Ralph wants to get the gem and general mayhem ensues and is resolved as expected.
In this movie, there is more interaction between Jack and Ralph. If you get the impression that this is a natural comedy team you would not be too far off base. In real life Douglas and DeVito were roommates when they were first starting out as actors. This goes to the point that there are certainly enjoyable moments in this film. If it wasn’t in the shadow of the original it might have come off better. Getting both would make for a fun double feature night at home. Now that Fox has released both to Blu-ray you have a new chance. The video on this movie is not as sharp as ‘Stone’ but acceptable. The re-mixed audio in DTS HD is overkill. There were not enough elements to the original soundtrack to make the multi-channel audio do well. Overall it is fun as a popcorn flick.
Posted 10/10/08 Posted 02/01/2020