Film Review: The War of the Roses (1989)

Release Date: December 4th, 1989 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Written by: Michael J. Leeson
Based on: The War of the Roses by Warren Adler
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sagebrecht, Dan Castellaneta, Sean Astin, G.D. Spradlin, Roy Brocksmith

Regency International Pictures, Gracie Films, Twentieth Century Fox, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I think you owe me a solid reason. I worked my ass off for you and the kids to have a nice life and you owe me a reason that makes sense. I want to hear it.” – Oliver Rose, “Because. When I watch you eat. When I see you asleep. When I look at you lately, I just want to smash your face in.” – Barbara Rose

When this came out, I remember my mum rushing out to see it based off of her love of Romancing the Stone and to a lesser extent, The Jewel of the Nile. I then remember her coming home upset because it didn’t have a happy ending and in fact, had a really dark, tragic one. While my mum was a fan of comedy and romance pictures, she was never too keen on black comedy or dark humor in general.

I had never seen this one until now. Sure, I had seen scenes and knew how it would end but I was always kind of disappointed that in the final act of the Douglas-Turner-DeVito trilogy we didn’t get another fun adventure movie akin to their previous films together. I’m still kind of bummed we never got a third Romancing the Stone film but Turner wasn’t happy with The Jewel of the Nile and most people saw it as a big step down.

Anyway, this certainly isn’t a bad film and I find it more palatable than my mum did. But I’ve also always loved dark humor because I was a teenage male in the ’90s and everyone was an edgy boi in love with edgy shit. Also, watching Turner start to go off the deep end in this reminded me a lot of another one of her movies I love: Serial Mom.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this. It’s hard watching this married couple fall apart, though. Also, by the end of the story, neither of them are good people. They just become obsessed with trying to hurt one another and its a game of escalating one-upmanship that ends in their demise.

Some of this really stung because the performances were so good and after the setup and their backstory, it’s hard watching things fall apart and to the extreme extent that they do. I also think that in my mind, as it’s still fresh, and in many people’s minds, we were still in love with the couple we got in their two other movies.

Danny DeVito was just kind of there to be the eyes and ears of the audience, observing and ultimately reporting and telling the story to a client in his office. DeVito starts out as this sort of sleazy lawyer but evolves, as the tale rolls on.

In the end, this isn’t the way I wanted to see this creative partnership between these three great talents end but for decades, this was it. At least Kathleen Turner popped up as Michael Douglas’ ex-wife in his show The Kominsky Method, which I’ve heard is good. I’ll probably give it a watch down the road. Danny DeVito appeared on the show, as well.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The Jewel of the Nile (1985)

Release Date: December 4th, 1985 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Lewis Teague
Written by: Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner
Based on: characters by Diane Thomas
Music by: Jack Nitzsche
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Holland Taylor, Spiros Focas, Avner Eisenberg

SLM Production Group, Stone Group Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, 106 Minutes

Review:

“How much romance can one woman take?” – Joan Wilder

This very rapidly produced sequel to Romancing the Stone is better than I remembered but I also hadn’t seen it since about 1987ish.

While it’s not quite on the same level as Romancing the Stone it’s still a fun movie with enjoyable characters and exudes Indiana Jones vibes while being made in the best era for movies like that.

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are, once again, a great pairing. However, this time around, Danny DeVito is more directly involved with them and it just adds a new element that’s amusing to watch.

In this story, the two leads are now in love and traveling the world. While at a book event on the southern French coast, Turner’s Joan Wilder is recruited by a rising dictator, who she believes is a good leader, to return with him to his country and pen his biography. She leaves Douglas’ Jack Colton behind where he is lucky enough to dodge an assassination attempt. Joan quickly discovers she must write propaganda and is a prisoner that must comply with this dictator’s wishes. Jack and DeVito’s Ralph travel to the dictator’s homeland. While looking to rescue Joan, Jack finds her just as she is escaping with an ally, who is actually the MacGuffin of the story.

As an adventure comedy, this hits the right notes for the most part. There are solid action sequences and everything was pulled off wonderfully for a movie that was rushed and also had major production issues.

Kathleen Turner actually didn’t want to do the film because she didn’t like the script. Michael Douglas, who was the producer, told her it would improve with some rewrites, so she went along with it. In the end, she wasn’t happy with the final product and she isn’t wrong in seeing this as inferior to its predecessor. However, it’s still a great film to escape into for a few hours and these characters are just fun to watch.

It could also be possible that this just didn’t have the right sort of feminine touch and lacked the kind of perspective needed for Turner’s character arc. Romancing the Stone was written by a woman and had the right energy in regards to the feminine half of the film. This picture was written by two men and with that, this comes across as more action and adventure driven where the romance sort of takes a backseat other than a few small scenes.

The Jewel of the Nile was still a decent follow up but I get why it’s become a somewhat forgotten film while its predecessor is still beloved by many. I can also see why this didn’t lead to a proper sequel another year or so later. But in the end, both movies are entertaining.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Romancing the Stone (1984)

Release Date: March 24th, 1984 (Beverly Hills premiere)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: Diane Thomas
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Alfonso Arau, Manuel Ojeda, Zack Norman, Holland Taylor, Mary Ellen Trainor

Nina Saxon Film Design, El Corazon Produccciones S.A., Twentieth Century Fox, 106 Minutes

Review:

“What did you do, wake up this morning and say, “Today, I’m going to ruin a man’s life”?” – Jack Colton

This is one of those films I saw a lot as a kid because it was one of my mum’s all-time favorite flicks. However, I was fine with that, as I liked it a lot too. But I hadn’t seen it in at least two decades, so when I came across it on HBO Max, I figured I’d revisit it.

Plus, what’s not to like, here? You have Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. You also have a pretty great adventure story with solid action and a whole lot of fun.

It’s like an Indiana Jones movie set in modern times, at least when it was made, and it features a very timid yet likable fish out of water character that has to rise to the occasion and put aside her fears to become the woman she should be. It also features one hell of a hero that is reminiscent of Han Solo, as he’s there to help when it’s to his benefit but by the end, he puts his own personal interests aside to do the right thing. Also, they fall in love, so there’s that.

This is a storybook romance but mixed with high adventure, treasure and violent baddies who will stop at nothing to achieve their dastardly goals. Again, what’s not to like, here?

What makes this even better is that Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner are a perfect pairing. They know how to challenge each other in the right way and they bring the best out of one another. In a lot of ways, their camaraderie and chemistry reminds me of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen. Being that this is also a jungle adventure movie makes that comparison even more noticeable.

Now Romancing the Stone isn’t the movie that The African Queen is but I kind of appreciate it in the same way in regards to the bond between the two lead characters.

I also love the hell out of Danny DeVito in this and this was really before he became a much more prominent comedic force in movies. Here, he was just coming off of the hit sitcom Taxi and I think it was this movie that really propelled his film career forward.

For its time, this was a perfect date movie. It featured everything a male and a female could’ve liked and it brings it all together quite nicely with likable, fun characters and a simple, lighthearted story with a lot of energy.

Rating: 7.5/10