RogerBW's Blog

Jungle Cruise (2021) 06 December 2021

2021 thriller/mystery, dir. Jaume Colette-Sara, Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt; IMDb / allmovie. In 1916, Dr Lily Houghton travels up the Amazon in search of a tree that could revolutionise medicine…

Yes, this is indeed based on the Disneyland ride: planning for the film started in 2004 when Pirates of the Caribbean had just made All the Money. (Even though The Haunted Mansion… didn't.) It burbled around looking uninspired for a while, then Mr The Rock joined the project in 2015 and things started moving. As one might expect given the amount of corporate money behind it, there's nothing particularly inspired here, just entertainment.

So Frank is a wisecracking ne'er-do-well and Lily is Marion Ravenwood minus the implied underage sex plus a dab of Amelia Earhart; the tree is a hybrid of banyan, baobab, other big trees; there are panthers and blowdarts and native tribes as written by someone who's desperate not to let them be seen as in any way bad guys (those are the Evil German and his mercenaries, plus some others I won't talk about). There's lots and lots and lots of CGI, much of it quite obvious. So far so straightforward.

But as entertainment it works. Yes, it's all a bit connect-the-dots in the primary plot, but that serves as a framework against which Johnson and Blunt can be funny. (And do the obligatory vomit joke to keep the kiddies awake.) Johnson of course can do this effortlessly; Blunt has to work a bit harder, but carries it off well. Gradual revelations about Frank in particular, and about the locals, bring in unexpected layers of complexity. There's a blend of action and character which a lot of action films no longer bother with. Unusually for Disney, it's not quite inoffensive enough to become bland.

A film for the ages? Probably not. Two stars who know what they're doing, doing it really well, plus lots and lots of expensive pixels? Sure.

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