Jungle Cruise

Release: Friday, July 30, 2021

đź‘€ Theater

Written by: Michael Green; Glenn Ficarra; John Requa

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Dwayne Johnson; Emily Blunt; Jesse Plemons; Jack Whitehall; Paul Giamatti; Édgar Ramírez

***/*****

The long, predictable meanders of the river are more enjoyable when you’ve got a good crew to float with. Such is the case with Jungle Cruise, a family-friendly adventure deeply indebted to the charms of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, playing a mismatched pair on a dangerous mission deep into the heart of the Amazon circa the early 1900s.

Jungle Cruise remains rooted in classic adventure tropes even as the whole kit-and-caboodle swings wide of classic status and despite the expensive, flashy CGI ballast. There’s a map, a hidden treasure, cursed conquistadors (the film at its most unfortunate, casting a slew of Latinx actors, most notably Édgar RamĂ­rez, and extras in thankless background roles smothered in digital Disneymagic), a bad guy after the same treasure, and even a wisp of romance, although this proves to be about the only thing Johnson and Blunt fail at as a team. Less trope-y is the characterization of the aforementioned competition, Jesse Plemons in fine bizarre form as a largely submarine-bound German memorably seen consulting a swarm of bees on navigational strategy.

On strategy, helming this old-school-feeling rig is director Jaume Collet-Serra, who sets aside his more violent filmmaking tendencies in favor of a breezy, good-natured bit of escapism where the exploration (and exploitation) of character foibles and differences outweigh more tangible narrative concerns. The plot finds Blunt’s danger-courting, pants-wearing Dr. Lily Houghton traveling to the Brazilian jungle in search of a riverboat captain willing to take her and her brother MacGregor (a third-wheeling but really fun Jack Whitehall) to the secret location of the Tears of the Moon, a mythical tree whose incandescent pink petals she believes could change the course of modern medicine and, thus, her status amongst her peers who all too happily laugh a lady out of any serious discussion. Meanwhile, Plemons’ Prince Joachim is hoping to get there first, thinking it could change Germany’s fortunes in the Great War.

Johnson’s Frank Wolff, a down-on-his-luck river guide with more puns in the bank than dollar bills, is motivated to journey down the Mighty Amazon due to his increasing debt to port manager Nilo (a haggard-looking Paul Giamatti). Naturally, personalities and philosophies clash immediately and about as comically as MacGregor’s wardrobe choices do with the climate. Along the way a mutual respect for one another is eventually gained. However, trust turns out to be more of an uphill battle for the Houghtons, who understandably tire of Frank’s penchant for pranking. As it turns out, there is more to Frank than deception and a pet jaguar.

Jungle Cruise is the latest in a line of movies “inspired by” real theme park rides. Like the actual Disney World attraction itself, for maximum enjoyment it helps to not get too curious about how the machinations work. Once you look over the sides and see the rails guiding the thing along a lot of the fun tends to get lost. Jungle Cruise is a cash grab but there are certainly more cynical ones out there.

So quiet you can’t even hear the critics chirping

Moral of the Story: I’m not sure I should be admitting this, but I actually got to experience this movie in an empty theater. Much to my surprise, it didn’t make much of a difference. Jungle Cruise, like many a Marvel movie, just seems like it would play better to a packed house. And it probably still does. Yet it speaks to the charisma of the two leads that I had a good time anyway. Plus the beer probably didn’t hurt (Señor Krunkles IPA — pretty sweet, hoppy and fruity. Made for a great pairing.)  

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 127 mins.

Quoted: “I had a girlfriend once, she was cross-eyed. Didn’t work out. We could never see eye to eye!”

Check out the creepy-crawly jungle-brawly trailer here!

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.actionra.com 

7 Comments

  1. Beer? At the movie?? I’m in! I wish there was something I really wanted to go see in a theater – I miss that. Maybe Green Knight but I have a feeling it will come and go pretty quick. Sigh, opens beer. Oh shit never mind, I’m at work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey man, a good beer in a movie theater makes any movie better. I’m wanting to see the Green Knight too but I feel like there will be scary parts . . . ?

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  2. Beer in a cinema? That’s the Future right there (except that I’m always driving, so the beers are reserved for 4K discs at home).

    Whenever I learn that films like Jungle Cruise have been made, I weep a little inside. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of room for silly entertainment/action-comedy flicks, crikey Dwayne Johnson has made a career and fortune out of them, but they often feel so calculated and cynical. Its product, clearly, rather then art or what I would term ‘Cinema’. Which makes me sound like a snob or something, which I’m not, God Knows so much Arthouse crap makes my stomach turn.

    But its hard to hear about something like Jungle Cruise and get any interest. I can imagine the Disney execs wetting themselves over the Theme Park ride and merchandising and possible franchise development and all the bloody $. I know its all just a business, really, but all the same, at least with poor doomed Dune there is some ambition there.

    (As far as empty theatres go, I once saw Fantasia in an empty cinema, many years ago. I got distracted half-expecting the manager to stop the movie and give me my money back, to save wasting electricity etc on just one patron. While that seems silly now, maybe with climate change and all the eco-warriors going around, that might be Reality at some point in the future).

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    1. To be completely transparent here — I had a totally different review for this initially. I was leading in with a comment about how Ariana Grande once proclaimed (profoundly!) how “Whoever said money doesn’t fix your problems must not have had enough money to fix them,” from which I would have likely launched into a diatribe about the money-making machine that is Disney. I actually really am not a Disney fan at all — their Clorox approach to themes and subjects turns me off.

      HOWEVER. Blunt and Johnson are just too damn nice. I really couldn’t bring myself to take Jungle Cruise down a peg (or two) as I was at first wanting to. It’s a totally generic movie where it purports to be “inclusive” and yet shoves all these Spanish-speaking natives to the background (and literally in this case). The movie has flaws besides its own questionable existence there is no doubt about it.

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      1. I really do like Blunt, she’s very good in anything I’ve seen her in so I can understand how she’d make Jungle Cruise enjoyable. An example of good casting working for a film, certainly.

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    1. Whatever floats your boat, Fraggle! To be quite Blunt about it, this probably wouldn’t Rock you at all.

      It’s spectacularly puntacular.

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