JUNGLE CRUISE (2021) – A missed opportunity for an epic tale

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Rating: ⭐⭐

Jungle Cruise is Disney’s latest attempt in making a live action film based on one of its most popular theme park rides. It had great success doing this with The Pirates of the Caribbean which spawned a lucrative franchise, and to a lesser extent with Haunted Mansion and Tomorrow Land. Many of us who have been to Disneyland parks would probably have fond memories of the Jungle Cruise theme park ride. How successfully can this ride be translated into a full length movie to be able to ignite the same level of thrills and imagination that the ride succeeded so well in doing for the kids?

I was quite hyped to watch this especially since the trailer showed great promise with what looked like good comic chemistry between the two leads. To help ensure a mass audience appeal, Disney has hired the likes of mega stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt to head the cast. Sadly I was to be once again disappointed with the outcome as I did not get the laughs, or rollicking thrill ride down the Amazon that I was hoping to experience. The film started off entertaining enough with a lengthy prologue introducing our two main characters. Emily Blunt’s Dr Lily Houghton is made to look like a female Indiana Jones as she boldly acquired some mystical arrow head from a scientific institution. Then, Dwayne Johnson comes on as Skipper Frank doing the familiar jungle cruise punctuated with his bad jokes and one liners. These early scenes were the best and kept the feel good atmosphere alive. In the trailer, Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson shared some jokes which appeared to be really funny. However, here, their comic timing seem to be a bit off. I guess clever editing can help accentuate comic timing.

So we have the classic two persons who seemingly cannot get along well stuck together on an adventure to seek some sort of all healing tree deep in the Amazon jungle. To make things more challenging, we have the presence of an evil villain who is also out for the same thing, played rather unmenacingly and almost like a caricature by Jesse Plemons. All very predictable and routine.

Things begin to get muddled as we approach the final act as the plot gets more and more ridiculous, to the extend that I honestly had no idea what was happening. Much of the ending was shot mostly in the dark, and with a bunch of people fighting each other. The eventual mandatory happy ending felt formulaic. In fact the whole movie felt formulaic and failed to portray a personality of its own. This is a pity especially since the production values were of high standards. The cinematography is superb, the CGI-ed animals unbelievably realistic and the jungle setting fabulous. Even the casting of Dwayne Johnson as Skipper felt right as Dwayne looked really comfortable in his role and lived the part. And, Emily Blunt can be quite the comedian in her own unique style. It always feels sad when a film has so much positive things going for it doesn’t come off as good as it should. I am not rooting for a sequel for the producers to redeem themselves here though.

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