Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s movie is a ‘bumpy’ ride of not so epic proportions – nonenglishfeed

Jungle Cruise

Jungle Cruise Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall

Jungle Cruise Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Jungle Cruise Stars: 3/5

Imagine if Pirates of the Caribbean meets Raiders Of The Lost Ark; but not in epic proportions, that’s Jungle Cruise for you in a nutshell! While Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are no Captain Jack Sparrow or Indiana Jones in the slightest, the intriguing duo manages to assist the audience to just about sail through (emphasis on the just about!) a bumpy two hours and so-so minutes. Jungle Cruise is packing an action-adventure punch but where’s the heart?

The overstuffed plot of Jungle Cruise, based on the iconic Disneyland ride, centers on the hunt for the enchanting Tree of Life (in the 1990s, in the midst of a World War!), which beholds the Tears of the Moon, magical flowers with healing powers. While the Houghton siblings, Lily (Blunt) and MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) are amongst the many obsessively searching for the Tree, they land up in Brazil and enlist the help of Frank Wolf (Johnson), a skipper and his rustic but surprisingly dependable boat named La Quila. However, trouble brews on the Amazon Rainforest’s horizons, what with human and supernatural enemies. On their tail is German royal, Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who wants to extract the arrowhead in Lily’s possession, as its the key to getting the curing flowers, Spanish conquistador Don Aguirre (Édgar Ramírez) wants the curse put upon him by the Puka Michuna tribe chief, who protected the Tree in the 1500s, due to his betrayal even after being saved, to be lifted.

While the overcomplicated storyline is a major buzzkill, what is even more infuriating is how a quest to metaphorically “mend a broken heart” isn’t dealt with in detail. Even Jaume Collet-Serra’s direction seems disgruntled and jerky at times. Instead, more leeway is given to the crisp action, which would have been alright for such a big-ticket extravaganza, but you’re made to believe that you’ll eventually be invested in these characters and their individual and collective pursuits. Spoiler Alert: You won’t!

Dwayne and Emily are, without a doubt, a match made in charismatic cinema heaven and in spite of the dwindling script of Jungle Cruise, manage to win you over as a piquant ‘opposites attract’ duo, whose never-ending bickering (They call each other “Skippy” and “Pants,” no guesses there on who is who!) reminds us of beloved old-school on-screen couples. They quite literally steer the boat from sinking completely! Emily, in particular, is feisty at parts and vulnerable when need be and matches toe-to-toe with Dwayne, in bravado. On the other hand, Johnson delivers yet another ‘Dwayne Johnson’ performance where he’s basically himself, which is captivating in itself and you can’t help but make do with it. Biceps and all! Surprisingly, a few of his “stop it already” jokes unknowingly will entice a chuckle out of you.

A surprise package comes in the name of Jack Whitehall, keeping the ship afloat, who is controversially bestowed with the honour of playing Disney’s first openly gay character. While his elite antics provide for some genuine laughs, the treatment towards MacGregor’s sexuality is subtle and not as revolutionary as previously advertised. Nevertheless, Jack is a quirky addition to the Dwayne-Emily duo. He’s the one you want to see persevere.

As for our villains, Édgar’s Aguirre is a victim of overt CGI, succumbing to endless snakes and weird visual effects which leaves his acting rendered limited. On the other hand, Jesse’s Prince Joachim is OTT at its highest level but Plemons, even with that crummy accent, manages to entertain. A talent of Paul Giamatti’s calibre is reduced to a stereotypical, bad accented harbormaster like Nilo, which honestly, anyone could have played. Frank’s CG jaguar named Proxima has more character development than any of the antagonists do combined. He’s also more crowd-pleasing.

The various twists and turns in Jungle Cruise, especially when it comes to who Frank really is, isn’t rooted enough to make you root for the main characters and their conquests. As for the romance angle between Frank and Lily, it frankly doesn’t happen until the very end and happens to abruptly find a place amid the already overambitious mythology, that the first kiss doesn’t really hit the mark. In fact, Dwayne and Emily have more electric chemistry as frenemies than they do as potential love interests and that’s shocking, given their tangible togetherness off-screen.

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However, as expected of Disney films, no expense was spared in bringing the Amazon rainforest to life in Jungle Cruise. Flavio Labiano’s spirited cinematography is interlaced seamlessly by Joel Negron’s cutting edge editing, where several action sequences make you feel like you’re in the actual Jungle Cruise ride. P.S. Even the seasickness aspect for some! In particular, I was a fan of the earlier chase sequence where Lily masterfully fights her way through Joachim and the bad guys, who want to take the arrowhead stolen by her. Even the elaborate Puka Michuna battle against Aguirre and the rest of the cursed Spanish conquistador was a delight to see unfold, rather than the tame final showdown. Kudos also go to production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos and costume designer Paco Delgado, who intricately take us back in period nostalgia while James Newton Howard’s hyped score has certain hits and misses along the ride.

Ultimately, Jungle Cruise is that typical adventure blockbuster movie that you wouldn’t mind as a one time watch in cinemas but would rather say “Thank you, Next!” when it comes to a sequel!


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