Friday 3 July 2015

Movie Review: The Jewel Of The Nile (1985)

A sequel to 1984's Romancing The Stone, The Jewel Of The Nile reunites author Joan Wilder and adventurer Jack Colton for another madcap adventure, this time in the Arabian desert. The attitude and quality are good, but this is a purely derivative project.

Six months after chasing a massive jewel in the South American jungles, Joan (Kathleen Turner) and Jack (Michael Douglas) are cruising the Mediterranean and getting on each other's nerves. She wants to head back to New York while he is happy to live the good life of doing nothing. Joan is approached by the mysterious wealthy tribal leader Omar (Spiros Focás), who asks her to accompany him to his unnamed kingdom and write a puff piece to bolster his popularity. Jack is then approached by Omar's enemies, who want him to find the "jewel of the Nile", apparently the inspirational source of mystical inspiration. Also making a sudden reappearance is treasure hunter Ralph (Danny DeVito), seeking revenge on Jack after ending up with nothing but prison time at the end of the South American escapade.

Joan soon finds herself effectively a prisoner in Omar's sprawling compound, and realizes that he has fascist-like evil intentions to grab more power by pretending to have supernatural powers. Jack and Ralph arrive just in time along with Omar's opponents to help rescue Joan, who in the meantime has stumbled upon a humble prisoner (Avner Eisenberg) who holds the key to stop Omar's power grab. But Jack is still intent on finding the precious large jewel, causing continued tension in his relationship with Joan.

Quickly launched into production after the unexpected success of Romancing The Stone, The Jewel Of The Nile reunites Douglas, Turner and DeVito, but without director Robert Zemeckis. Lewis Teague takes over directing duties and delivers a functional effort that ticks off all the boxes of action and romance, but never finds any new angles of originality.

The Jewel Of The Nile slips into a succession of set-piece highlights, most notably Jack conniving an escape and destroying Omar's compound into the bargain behind the controls of an F-16 fighter jet that never leaves the ground but nevertheless causes destructive and comic havoc. Other cliffhangers include a train-top battle, Jack and Joan suspended over an endless pit of death while rats and acid gradually degrade the ropes keeping them alive, and a grand finale with Omar putting on a cheesy special effects show to convince the masses of his powers.

But there is an unshakable sense of going through the motions, emphasized by Jack and Joan often reduced to the role of spectators rather than protagonists. The action is mostly instigated by others, and our heroes rarely do much more than clumsily find a way out the latest mess. The humour is there but it's also obvious, as is the hissing villainy of Omar and his grim henchmen.

The film is saved by the unmistakable chemistry between Douglas and Turner, and the ups and downs of their relationship rise above all the noisy bullets and explosions to create a decent romantic anchor. DeVito also hits his stride and gets the best laughs in his quest to get the better of Jack, if only once. The lack of depth in the story and the stereotypical portrayal of Arabian tribal culture is balanced by the original twist on the true nature of the jewel that sets Jack off on his quest.

The Jewel Of The Nile wins no prizes for inventiveness, but does provide a pleasant enough romp through the desert.

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