There are many new films that claim to be romantic but there are few that get my blood running as much as this fabulous 80s film. Granted, it’s old but it has captured the world of a romance writer so well, or at least sold me on the concept that this is a romance writer’s world!
Kathleen Turner is wimpy woman of the year, Joan Wilder. She gets car sick, bus sick, train sick and almost hurls riding the escalator at Bloomingdale’s department store. The one thing she can do is write escapist romance books, which all star a dark hero who never seems to have a face. His body is sturdy, male and secure. His dark-haired head is covered in a hat. But Joan lives with a cat and looks awfully mousy.
As soon as she gets back from delivering her latest manuscript to her publisher she finds her home is trashed and the phone’s ringing. It is her sister Elaine. Trying to blow her off Joan is told in no uncertain terms to check her mail for a package from her sister’s late husband. He has mailed her the proverbial treasure map. That’s when life starts to go into high gear. You see, if Joan doesn’t go to Columbia with the map then her sister is crocodile meat.
After getting on the wrong bus she winds up high in the mountains and far from Cartagena. The bus bangs into a truck in the middle of the road after she distracts the bus driver with a sloppily-pronounced question in Spanish. Moments later the bad guy who got on the bus with her tries to pull a stick up but winds up scared off by a mysterious guy on a hill.
Enter Michael Douglas as Jack T. Colton. Wow! I’m not a major drooler for Michael but this one got my attention. Jack has been in Columbia capturing parrots and other exotic birds to get his dream boat. No really! A boat. He has a picture of it and keeps hoping that he’ll be able to afford the boat and go around the world in it. Since his birds have flown the coop he’s kind of stuck for a buck or two, so when Joan tells him she needs to get to a telephone and “it’s a matter of life and death,” he negotiates a deal.
Colton is hardly Prince Charming, and Wilder is clueless about jungle travel. She wears high-heeled Italian shoes, has a suitcase on wheels and a gigantic purse clutched to her chest. Does Colton offer to help her? No, he pretends to and then hucks the suitcase off a nearby cliff during a driving rainstorm and then they both go down the side of it into the mucky water below. What a great scene! It is, of course, famous, but it’s well done and it really gets your blood pumping.
In the meantime, Danny Devito shows up as a chain-smoking cousin of the resident bad guy. Together they want to find the treasure on the map, which happens to be one honkin’ big green gem! I don’t know what the prop department made it of but it was terrific. Eventually, after following the map’s clues, Joan and Jack find the gorgeous treasure in a straw-filled bunny rabbit. Its enormous size tells Jack they are in some serious trouble.
Jack and Joan have to cut their way through the over-grown jungles in a driving rainstorm to get to safety and wind up in an old plane with a huge cash of marijuana. The pilots are long-since skeletonized and have a lovely bottle of booze to add to the prize. The two heroes spend time in the plane to sleep, dry off and learn from each other — got to do that character building you know! We find out that Jack is very interested in that map –enough to cop a serious look while Joan sleeps the booze off, but not enough to conk her on the head and take off with it.
Next the two are unlucky enough to wind up in a tiny backwater where the only person who has a car is Juan the bell-maker. He doesn’t want anything to do with this couple, but maybe the posse with all those shotguns standing behind them do! Fortune changes when Colton cracks “ok, write us out of this one, Joan Wilder.” Well, sure enough Juan is a huge fan and has all of her books! He even reads them to the local tough guys once a week! Ummmm: sure. Well anyhow he gives them a lift to the closest he’ll get to the city and on the way Danny’s gang gives them a run for their money!
They finally get to Cartagena and get relatively cleaned up. Joan calls the men holding her sister and explains that she’s late but there. The arrangements are made to swap the map for the sister and so there is time for romance, dancing, dinner and disclosure of dreams. Jack opens up about the boat after he’s opened Joan up! Wink!
Then the exchange begins, and gets fun as the crocodiles come out. People get eaten and Joan starts to get all faint-y at blood again! Geez after all this!? But when the crocodile takes off with the giant stone in his belly Jack splashes off to retrieve it, leaving Joan and her sister to return home alone.
Joan returns to New York with a new attitude, confidence, and finally wears her hair loosely and dons some sexy make-up.
How does it turn out? I’m my usual silent self. Rent it, laugh and sigh. Its sequel, Jewel of the Nile, was not as good but worth a few laughs.
Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).