MICHAEL Douglas and Kathleen Turner recut "The Stone" in "The Jewel of the Nile," the sparkly but flawed sequel to the couple's last caper.
This episode finds the fun lovers -- dashing adventurer Jack Colton and romance writer Joan Wilder -- in the doldrums on the French Riviera. Life, alas, has become a tiresome blur of "exotic ports, great parties and fabulous sunsets. It's not enough," pouts Joan to Jack, who's quickly become tired of playing Mr. Wilder for Joan's fanatical following.
Since Joan has already turned from a shy novelist to a sultry action heroine, Jack is the one who metamorphoses this time around. He becomes an '80s guy -- macho in emergencies only, tender, a good kisser, and able to commit.
Admittedly the concept is semi-precious, but this is a romance spoof after all. Turner plays the all-American girl as she really is, picture pretty, brave, upstanding and sex-crazed, but in a clean way. She may imagine that she is ravaged by pirates, but would never go further than, say, doing it in a Nubian tent with the man of her dreams whom she has just claimed as a life mate in a tribal fertility rite near Fez.
She comes to this unbridled night of bliss after narrowly escaping the clutches of a monomaniacal sheik who hires her to revise his biography. Greek actor Spiros Focas plays the potentate whose plans for a special- effects-engineered apotheosis are opposed only by Joan, Jack and a nomadic Holy Man carrying a serious British umbrella.
Danny DeVito, the wicked, wily, knee-high nemesis, also returns as Ralph, who's spent the last six months in a South American jail loaded with vermin and assorted sore-infested felons, all of whom, he says, volunteered to become his proctologist. Ralph joins the local nomads in efforts to recover the elusive Jewel of the Nile.
Avner Eisenberg of the new burlesque circuit plays the Holy Man -- a cross between Gandhi and Mary Poppins -- with willowy grace and comic surety. The Flying Karamazovs are his disciples, a carnival of support performers who juggle swords on horseback to a pop soundtrack from a boogie box strapped to a lumbering camel.
Much is made of cultural contrasts, as director Lewis Teague of "Cujo" opens with a shot of a jet landing on a remote airstrip, while camelback Berbers sit like Biblical specters in the quavery fumes. The scenery is nice, but Teague's statements slow the fluff up.
There are serious problems with pacing, overlong gag sequences and lame dialogue. And this time there's less chemistry between Turner and Douglas, who are left like Sam and Diane on "Cheers" after the love-hate relationship is over. But the writers do come up with a far sassier resolution.
"Jewel" has a new setting that shows more facets. It's about what to do the day after you've been carried off into the sunset, lapped by soft breezes, licked by the waves and lain beneath luffing curtains; after the camera slips off into something a little more uncomfortable. It's about putting the romance back, after you've got the stone.
THE JEWEL OF THE NILE (PG) -- Area theaters.