The Jewel of the Nile (1985) – Directed by Lewis Teague – Starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Spiros Focás, Holland Taylor, and Avner Eisenberg.
What was so fun and refreshing a year earlier in ROMANCING THE STONE is now tired, unimaginative, and a chore to watch.
There are flashes of the good stuff in THE JEWEL OF THE NILE, but they are few and far between. Nearly every plot point in JEWEL feels contrived just to give us a bickering Joan Wilder and Jack Colton (Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas). The film opens with Joan unable to finish her book and Jack happy to cruise around the world irresponsibly in his boat that he bought at the end of the previous movie. She’s snippy at him for being so carefree when she’s got work to do, and he subsequently gets snippy with her when he has to go to a fancy dinner.
One unfortunate switch between movies is that where ROMANCING was wholeheartedly Joan’s story that Jack comes crashing into, JEWEL is a shared story with Jack getting to play the role Joan played in the first movie of the serious guy with the annoying sidekick. Upset with Jack and angry at not being able to finish her latest novel, Joan takes Omar (Spiros Focás), leader of an Arab country, up on an offer to go down the Nile with him and see his country. Joan and Jack fight, make weird proclamations about this being the end of their run together, Joan leaves, and Jack is set upon by Ralph (Danny DeVito), who’s still angry about losing the stone everyone was busy romancing in the last film.
This plot maneuver splits our two leads, which means the filmmakers thought that what we wanted to see (or would be entertained by, at least) was to see our romantic leads split apart. Joan goes off with Omar to his desert paradise, only to discover its a desert dictatorship. Jack and Ralph are approached by one Omar’s citizens who tell them that Omar is a meanie and has stolen the Jewel of the Nile.
We’re all off to the Middle East, then, and it’s like Joan and Jack are in two movies. Joan’s plot gets all serious when she realizes Omar is an evil guy and that the Jewel of the Nile isn’t a big honking rock, but a religious leader that Omar has kidnapped. Jack and Ralph hang out with the rebels and bicker incessantly.
It’s the best part of the film.
JEWEL is much more fun when Jack and Ralph are bickering. They’ve greatly expanded Danny DeVito’s role this time around and he’s easily the one shining part of this dreary film. He’s not enough to balance the insipid Joan and Jack Show, however, as the couple continually hurt each other, then regret it while the other isn’t around, and then hurt each other again at the earliest convenience. It can be a lot of fun to watch a couple bicker as they’re also falling in love, but once they’ve admitted and embraced their love for one another, the bickering is weary to watch. There are moments here where Joan and Jack shine again, but they’re all happy moments.
Turner and Douglas have fantastic chemistry and when the film slows down and simply lets them smile and be playful with one another, JEWEL wins me over, but these are rare moments in a film that would rather watch its two leads argue than work together.