Romancing the Stone; Directed by Robert Zemeckis; Written by Diane Thomas; Twentieth-Century Fox.


Romancing the Stone is a cinematic Raisenette: sweet, chewy, and individually unsatisfying. It is, in design and execution, sort of a Raiders of the Lost Ark for that segment of The Big Chill generation that likes to think itself above such “childish amusements” (though that assessment is made only in public after a furtive viewing of Indiana Jones’s exploits). The characters in Romancing the Stone are grown-ups but not adults: key are a romance novelist who looks not like Barbara Cartland but like a Cartland creation and a swaggering vagabond whose most painful moment comes when he discovers, in a crumbling issue of Rolling Stone, that the Doobie Brothers have disbanded. Essen­tially, the movie is nothing more than a pulp romance brought to the screen, but those who produced it, apparently, like to think themselves to be more arch: that is, in terms of current literary discourse the movie is a self-conscious romance. Somehow, it’s implied, by calling atten­tion to its recognition that it is a $2.95 story line, it makes itself more serious and important. One of the favorite activities of the literary analysts of the generation in question is to examine works of so-called “popular culture” and to make all sorts of grand, sanctimonious  announcements about them. Some of these demischolars have accidentally bumped into Vladimir Propp’s Morphol­ogy of the Folk Tale or some of Barthes’s “mythologies,” and have consequently worked toward making the banal pro­found. The results are publication and tenure. Given that Romancing the Stone has a “frame” and a number of the “ele­ments”of the popular romance genre, it will undoubtedly take on an outsize mantle of respectability. (SM)