Jungle Cruise was the first attraction on the original Walt Disney World Railroad in 1964. The original attraction featured animatronics of numerous animals, as well as a steam locomotive. A combination of a drought and a flood during the Florida Project saw the attraction’s original steam locomotive destroyed, while the animals were shown to be in storage. In 2003, the park attempted to bring the attraction to life again, but with a new animatronic cast.
No, this isn’t the theme park ride, but a movie that was released back in 1960. This is one of the great Disney classics and you should probably check it out. (I mean, if you haven’t seen it, you haven’t lived.)
Reviewing an old Disney classic is a great way to get my mind off the upcoming year. I’ve been a Disney fan since I was a kid, and I still remember the first time I saw the Jungle Cruise movie, and I could not believe how many stereotypes were in the movie. Even today, the Jungle Cruise movie is one of the rare Disney movies that I find funny.
Cruise Through the Jungle
Jaume Collet-Serra is the director.
Every time I see a new Disney movie trailer, commercial, or sign written in the stars, I ask myself this question: do I want to watch it in the theaters, pay for it on Disney+, or wait for it to appear on my ‘Recently Added’ movie list? Because, as cinema adapts to a post-pandemic (kind of) world, our choices for seeing new releases have extended outside the theater and are altering the way we see new releases completely.
Take, for example, Disney’s newest film, Jungle Cruise, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Jack Whitehall (a British comedian whose Netflix program Travels with My Father never fails to entertain). One is a courageous lady ahead of her time, another is a very English ‘fop’ whose notion of adventure is to drink tea that is hotter than lukewarm, and still another is a charming old hand with a secret… as well as a leopard
While watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have done differently if I hadn’t just assumed I’d like it since I enjoy watching the main actors.
The picture begins in an appropriately bleak London in 1916, two years into the First World War (as the film kindly reminds us). Macgregor and Lilly (Whitehall and Blunt), a brother and sister pair, plot to obtain access to a museum exhibit that will take them to the Amazonian rainforest’s tree of life and put them on the road to their very own Jungle Cruise led by the enigmatic Frank (Johnson).
The picture should theoretically be a good adventure offering from Disney for tweens—and an easy enough viewing for parents—but it quickly sinks into shallow seas. Part of the issue is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be—the plot is influenced by Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The African Queen, and it ends up confounding itself by attempting to be all three. At one point, there’s a surprise that I wouldn’t have predicted, but it also seemed less like a twist and more like a sudden right turn away from the narrative presented in the first half of the movie.
The film’s pace suffers as a result of the narrative uncertainty; the midsection, in particular, suffers from bloating as it desperately attempts to fit everything into the screenplay. Jungle Cruise is a lengthy picture for the demographic it’s attempting to reach, clocking in at two and a half hours, and when it stumbles, it drags. There are also dubious depictions of Indigenous groups, a weird little role by Paul Giamatti, and the odd sense of green screen—none of which help the narrative go forward.
The performers, meanwhile, never fully settle into the narrative.
This isn’t Johnson’s worst performance, but it’s certainly not his finest. While he does a good job as Frank, he struggles with some of the film’s more emotional scenes, and his physique is somewhat neglected to his disadvantage. Frank has some nice moments, but he seems like too many of the same character, and the effortless charm Johnson emanates in previous flicks starts to fade in this one.
His chemistry with Blunt is also uncomfortable, as they never manage to establish a rhythm throughout the movie. Blunt is excellent in this picture, as she usually is, but, like Johnson, I’ve seen finer performances from her. She brings some energy to the part of Lily, and she is wonderfully convincing as the ambitious lady eager to sail across the Amazon, but her character is two-dimensional, and she often falls into the stereotype of a “woman ahead of her time!”
In this picture, Whitehall is really good—he gets into his role as the displaced, bumbling Brit very effectively, and he usually nails the one-liners put up for comedic relief. He is obviously having the most fun of all the performers in this picture, and his character’s snark keeps Frank and Lily’s squabbling from becoming annoying.
In this overblown picture, Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Fargo) portrays the necessary villain. Of course, a German villain, formed as all German villains in these films appear to be: with a love for violence set to classical music, a meticulousness that can only be German, and an accent plucked from the most in-depth study of Hollywood’s best villains (I will say, the obsessive hunt for mystical objects does feel like it would be better suited to the later war, but I digress). Despite his character’s generic villainy, Plemons does a great job with what little character he has; his villain is wicked without being frightening, and he’s silly enough that he doesn’t seem dangerous.
The problem is, despite being too lengthy and attempting to accomplish too much, this isn’t a terrible picture. It’s a dreary Sunday afternoon movie for the kids that will keep them entertained but not so much that they will think too hard about it.
So, given what I didn’t know when I sat down to see this movie, would I go see Jungle Cruise in the theater, pay for premier access, or simply wait for it to come out?
Honestly? I’d wait for Jungle Cruise to be released on Netflix and then watch it in the theaters if it’s a film I truly want to see.
As an example:
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On May 15th, 2007, Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened to the public. The park is a $100 million dollar investment and the first Disney park to feature an entirely original theme, thus cementing Disney’s reputation as an innovator and a leader in theme parks. While the park is not the first to feature an animal theme, it is the first to feature its own animal-themed land.. Read more about jungle cruise 123movies and let us know what you think.
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