After “Pirates of the Caribbean,” another Disney boat trip is being filmed as a supernatural adventure. Whether Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt on theirs JUNGLE CRUISE We reveal in our review that we can keep up with the mega-franchise.
OT: Jungle Cruise (USA 2021)
Researcher Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) is ahead of the norms of her time – and that’s why she has a bad standing among her colleagues. Their search for a tree in the Amazon, which, according to legend, has extraordinary healing powers, goes unheard during the First World War. So she sets off for Brazil, accompanied only by her brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall), where she hires skipper Frank (Dwayne Johnson) for her expedition. He’s a day laborer full of cunning and with a powerful passion for jokes – but he also has a warm side. Even before Lily, McGregor and Frank leave, trouble begins. Frank’s creditor Nilo (Paul Giamatti) is annoying, the odd and militaristic USA prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) is after Lily, and then he sets three cursed conquistadors (led by Édgar Ramírez) on the trio…
Rated PG-13 in the US, a big-budget adventure released under the Disney label that features a social convention-breaking female character, a cunning loudmouth, supernatural villains, a military threat and the search for a hidden man Location includes: This not only describes “Jungle Cruise”, but also the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, whose secret to success the Disney company always tries to replicate. But neither the video game adaptation “Prince of Persia” nor the sci-fi cult novel adaptation “John Carter” were able to launch a cinema franchise. And neither does “Lone Ranger,” although the film reunites several people from the pirate team. While all of these films fell short of Disney’s hopes, the House of Mouse was quietly working on a Jungle Cruise film. Sometimes the story was set in today, sometimes in the past. For a short time, the aim was to cast Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (who voice the “Toy Story” duo Woody and Buzz in the original) in the main roles. But it wasn’t until Dwayne Johnson joined that the project took off. He suggested Jaume Collet-Serra as director and relentlessly wooed Emily Blunt to star alongside him as the film’s leading actress. Johnson and Blunt had never met before – but based on Blunt’s humorous late-night show interviews, he imagined that he and she had perfect on-screen chemistry. Let’s put a quick pin in this anecdote, shall we?
Frank (Dwayne Johnson), Lily (Emily Blunt) and MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) on an adventurous mission.
A sequel is already being considered, but will only be started once the audience has spoken. But “Jungle Cruise” is not entirely a “Pirates of the Caribbean” successor with the intention of being just as long-lasting – if you go back a long way, you can see that the jungle river cruise was there before the Caribbean pirates. Because the “Jungle Cruise” is one of Disneyland’s opening day attractions. And that influenced their film adaptation beyond the title. In addition to a few references that Disney theme park fans will recognize and everyone else will miss without realizing they missed something, the attraction’s humor is what’s saved in the film. Even during Walt Disney’s lifetime, the journey through an artificial river, past artificial animals, while a skipper tells information about the jungle and its inhabitants (and sporadically jokes) became a joke parade. Puns, proudly conveyed low-flying humor and other shallow jokes are told like an assembly line. Dwayne Johnson lives this out to the full in his “Jungle Cruise”: He plays Frank as a solo entertainer who takes great joy in reaping every gag, no matter how deep it is, whether anyone is even listening to him or even a boatload of customers could offend with his jokes.
Johnson is the kind of mime that amuses instead of annoying: in “Jungle Cruise” you literally laugh with Johnson at how his character laughs to himself inside that everyone finds Frank unfunny. And what you have to give the film’s writing team (Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra & John Requa share the script credit, Ficarra, Requa, John Norville and Josh Goldstein the story credit): You could have called it “Frank has one lame humor because that’s how it is in Disneyland. Instead, this side of Frank is discussed throughout the film – he is a solo entertainer because he has to somehow sweeten his boring skipper life because he has nothing else in his life. You then want to laugh at his jokes out of compassion.
“Aside from a few references that Disney theme park fans will recognize and everyone else will miss without realizing they missed something, what’s saved in the film is the attraction’s humor.”
Unfortunately, “Jungle Cruise” shares something with the train of the same name: outdated technology. The Disneyland river ride looks antiquated compared to newer attractions, and the film’s animation is almost disconcertingly shaky in quality. Digital landscapes rarely look like “Jungle Cruise” actually cost over $200 million. In stunts that have been enhanced using computer animation, even the untrained eye can see the seam between real and virtual. And CG creatures only sporadically fit into the real elements of the film in a convincing way. With so many meager effects, it doesn’t matter how much convincing trickery there is in between – the negative impression remains. Unfortunately, “Jungle Cruise” inhibits the potential of its supernatural villains. The cursed conquistadors could easily have been borrowed from an unrealized “Pirates of the Caribbean” part and impress with a really cool design: The three villains have merged with the jungle over the centuries and are partly made of mud, lianas, snakes or bees and honeycombs . Whenever they are clearly visible in their deformed glory, it is reminiscent of the horror impact of the first two “The Mummy” films with Brandon Fraser. Individual shots could easily be references to the horror origins of director Jaume Collet-Serra, who made “House of Wax” before his Liam Neeson thrillers like “Non-Stop”.
“Jungle Cruise” is based on a famous Disney theme park attraction.
But far too often the animations are so muddy that none of this comes into its own. The haptic spectacle in “Jungle Cruise,” on the other hand, is convincing: the costumes are lovingly designed and bursting with character, the real sets are spacious and detailed, and the biggest plus point about this film is also real, instead of from the computer – the chemistry between Blunt and Johnson. Yes, we’re finally pulling out the thumbtack again. There are bright sparks flying between the film’s co-stars: As a confident researcher with a thirst for adventure and stubbornness, Lily clashes in an extremely amusing way with skipper Frank, who has become caught in his routine and has become lazy. Both characters think they are better than themselves and have enough on their plate to earn their self-confidence – and both are very empathetic people at the same time, which is why their teasing, friendly counterpart develops refreshing harmonies and barbs. Blunt’s noble, lively humor complements Johnson’s bone-dry jokes wonderfully. You can almost feel how a friendship develops on the screen – also metafictionally. According to “The Hollywood Reporter”, Johnson and Blunt developed a close friendship during filming, which helped them put loving, cheeky improvisations into the mouths of their characters and which is also reflected in the fact that these two stars now constantly receive collegial feedback about individual career decisions.
But in addition to Blunt and Johnson, who provide a modernized version of the rapport from the adventure classic “African Queen” (which aesthetically served as the template for the “Jungle Cruise” attraction), Whitehall and Plemons also entertain. Whitehall gives the genre-typical, adventure-shy comedy sidekick, but underpins this part with a nice sense of family between McGregor and Lily, as well as a believable balance of self-pride and vulnerability in the face of his social position. Plemons, on the other hand, is a real delight as the grinning rascal of a villain – and the fact that Plemons sounds almost like Hape Kerkeling in the original with his humorous USA accent is an additional, unplanned bonus for USA ears. The fact that Prince Joachim’s motivation is very thinly sketched and that McGregor also suffers through a few very tired slapstick gags reduces the impression of “Jungle Cruise”. Veronica Falcon (“Ozark”) Meanwhile, as the smoky-voiced leader of a native tribe, she is a pleasant surprise: Falcón has an engaging charisma in her role and effortlessly suggests a long history within her people and between her tribe and Frank. Her scenes leave you wanting more.
What is Frank’s motivation for taking part in the expedition?
Incidentally, despite all the superficial parallels to “Pirates of the Caribbean” that ignore the ultimately woven character dynamics, “Jungle Cruise” is tonally different than the Jerry Bruckheimer franchise: While director Gore Verbinski gave his Pirate trilogy a rock opera attitude, What Rob Marshall and the duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg adapted in other parts to their own style without completely banning it from the DNA of the film series, “Jungle Cruise” is more influenced by classic adventure romance. It’s as if the banter from “African Queen” meets the idea of adventure as lived out in the “Indiana Jones” series (with Blunt as an indy counterpart – brash, rough-charismatic, capable and with a glaring Achilles heel), and the rich green color world and the easy-going but mostly irony-free tonality of “Chasing the Green Diamond”. Curiously, it is not the “Pirates of the Caribbean” saga, but “Jungle Cruise” that provides a Disney-Metallica collaboration in the form of an epic instrumental new arrangement of “Nothing Else Matters”. What’s even stranger is that it works!
Composer James Newton Howard, who has already refined many Disney adventures, is designing a classic Hollywood adventure film sound wallpaper for “Jungle Cruise”: The music exudes an “I’m happily jumping into exotic risk” atmosphere, catches the ear and yet remains mostly in the background instead of becoming a powerful engine of the film. In flashbacks and supernatural moments, Howard modulates his arrangements a bit by adding a little more verve – and Metallica is used exactly in the scene where it fits the soundscape of the film and the tonality of the scene. The scene doesn’t have enough pizzazz to get the somewhat over-stretched second act going again – but Blunt and Johnson easily laugh away every bit of it.
“While director Gore Verbinski gave his Pirate trilogy a rock opera attitude, which in other parts Rob Marshall and the duo Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg adapted to their own style without completely banning it from the DNA of the film series, ‘Jungle “Cruise’ is more influenced by classic adventure romance.”
Conclusion: Despite the similarities, it’s not a pure “Pirates of the Caribbean” copy, but an adventure that stands on its own two feet: “Jungle Cruise” can’t really entice you with its spectacle, but rather with a heroic, teasing duo who have so much fun together that you have to love it and want to see it again.
“Jungle Cruise” will be available to stream in USA cinemas from July 29, 2021 and on Disney+ from July 30.