Friday, July 30, 2021

Jungle Cruise - Movie Review

The Movie: Jungle Cruise

The Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

The Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti

The Story: Based on Disneyland's theme park ride where a small riverboat takes a group of travelers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles but with a supernatural element.

The Review:
The Rock and Emily Blunt are two of the biggest, most bankable stars in all of movie making and their movies are pretty much guaranteed to succeed. Disney is the preeminent movie studio in the world with major franchises under its umbrella and a non stop string of box office successes in just about every genre it ever takes on. The Jungle Cruise is one of Disney's most popular ride attractions and has been an icon of the parks for decades. This movie adaptation is built around integration with the attraction of the same name and it could also kick off a shared universe of movies that involve several park attractions. No pressure at all right?

The number one problem with this movie is that it becomes apparent all too quickly that this is one of those mega budget movies that studio execs, producers, and other people who wear fancy suits and count giant piles of money are all involved to make sure it is as universally likable as it possibly can be. Efforts to Maximize profit and guarantee future success as a franchise can lead to disaster just as often as it leads to success. Unfortunately this movie leans to the former as it's more style than substance, more cash grab than creative adventure, and it just lacks the heart and energy of a movie like the original Pirates of the Caribbean which is a prime example of when all the stuff mentioned above works perfectly.

As a matter of fact, there is a lot of the Pirates franchise DNA embedded into this film and I wouldn't be surprised if there is an eventual crossover and integration into the larger world I mentioned because that's what big franchises do. This movie also reminds me a lot of Universal's The Mummy franchise, not the Tom Cruise version but the Brendan Fraser version. The filmmakers take a lot of other ideas and influences from all kinds of different films, wrap them all up in a CGI candy coated shell, and sets it off down the river in hopes that the star power of Johnson and Blunt will bring the success the Disney suits are banking on. Yeah, not really.

The Rock is The Rock which is fine and he's actually really funny, or should I say punny, as he takes on the character and attitude, and some of the jokes, we have all grown to love from the attraction vehicle captains. Even the larger than life personality and charisma of the former multi time WWE champion and icon of sports entertainment isn't enough to keep this movie afloat although Emily Blunt does do her best to keep the whole thing from sinking into the murky depths of uncharted waters. Blunt has proven to be one of the most talented actresses and one of my favorite actresses working today so it's always a pleasure to see her in anything she chooses to be a part of.

The run time for this movie is just over two hours although it feels more like three. The movie drags on and on and it never really gives a proper payoff to justify the time investment you are asked to give. There is plenty of action in the movie but for some reason almost all of it is filmed as close ups on the actors, maybe so the filmmaking team didn't have to build elaborate sets or choreograph epic style action scenes. Kind of weird for a tent pole Disney blockbuster like this to cut corners but here we are. Maybe this is just the beginning with bigger and better things in store for the future. Would have been nice though if this movie had more heart and soul instead of relying on excessive CGI and overly formulaic storytelling techniques to get the job done.

The Verdict:
Jungle Cruise barely stays afloat thanks to it's two high powered stars, Emily Blunt and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. It's kind of fun but quickly loses steam because it tries to hard to capture the magic of the franchise successes it's trying so hard to join.

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