Disney has finally released their ‘Jungle Cruise’ film and we had a chance to sit down and watch it. The film overall feels like a cross between ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Indiana Jones,’ ‘Jumanji,’ ‘The Mummy,’ and ‘Romancing the Stone.” Which all sounds fun and exiting, but sometimes it feels like it’s trying to be too much.
Overall we enjoyed the film, but it does try to touch on some of the diversity and inclusion mandates Disney has been focused on as of late. But it really isn’t too in your face about it. The biggest one being that women were not taken seriously in the time frame of the film, which, for the most part, was true of the time period. It does go very “The Mummy” with Emily Blunt’s “Dr. Lily Houghton” who feels very similar to Evie Carnahan.
They do get a lot of the Skipper jokes and feel into the film as well. This is done in a fun way that fits the film, but sometimes it does seem like it’s trying too hard. The natives are played for laughs, just this time they’re in on the joke. Kind of like the native Americans in the film “Maverick.”
To discuss the film further I am going to have to tell you not to venture past this point because there will be spoilers.
You have been warned.
The biggest issue I have, beyond the fact that it feels like it’s trying to be too many things at once, is that it plays the Jungle Cruise attraction for laughs, as it should, but the natives have been removed from the attraction to be “culturally sensitive” and yet they make them part of the joke / story in the film. It just seems like Disney is contradicting themselves.
My son put it best when he said the film’s central characters are “a white woman and a colonizer” and he isn’t exactly wrong. We were left scratching our heads about why Disney would go to so much trouble to change the attraction and then do that in the film, but we’ll just chalk it up to it being a different version.
Just go into the film separating the attraction from the movie in your mind and both will be better for it.
Of course Disney did the expected and made Trader Sam a woman in this version. Which is fine, it’s just a bit tiring with the gender swapping Hollywood does all the time. They removed the character from the attraction for the most part and then made him a woman in the film, it just seemed cliché current year.
It’s almost like, it’s okay if we use the character in the film because we made her a woman so that fixes all the alleged “complaints.”
Another issue the film has is the large cat, that I think is a jaguar, I’m honestly not sure, but the CG on it still made it a bit cartoonish and it was a tad bit distracting. I’m sure they did the best they could with it though. It would be hard to use a real cat for a lot of those scenes.
However, the cat is a fun character..
The main villain was a bit too much like a stereotyped character. I did think the Conquistadors were interesting though and it might have been a less complicated film if it had just stuck to one villain. My son and husband both commented that they felt like this was a couple of movies in one and it might have benefited from either being two films or trimming some of the extra characters, story, etc. out. It’s like they couldn’t decide if they wanted to go “Indiana Jones” or “Pirates of the Caribbean” so they put villains in from both.
“Pants” and “Skip”
Most of the film is Lily and Frank (Dwayne Johnson) flirt fighting and calling each other names like “pants” and “skip.” It does feel very much like a love/hate “Romancing the Stone” type of relationship. Overall it’s a fun dynamic.
The film does spend an awful lot of time being concerned about her wearing trousers. We get it. Ladies didn’t do that then. But the banter mostly works and is fun.
My favorite character in the whole film was Lily’s brother McGregor ( Jack Whitehall.) If I’m being honest, he seemed to have the most character development in the film. I did question the choice to make “acceptance” his reason for following his sister into danger all the time. I would have rather it been because she was his sister and not that acceptance was conditional, but that could just be me.
McGregor is definitely a big part of the comic relief in the film, but it’s done in a very McGregor type of way, which is hard to explain unless you’ve seen the film. That very reason is why he’s one of the best characters for this film.
As I mentioned, it was a time where women weren’t often given equal treatment in academia. But it gets to be a bit over the top sometimes. Especially the ending where McGregor is discussing all the unbelievable things they saw. The audience of male scholars seems to be fine with it till he mentions that Trader Sam was the leader and was a woman. At that point it just becomes groan inducing. Especially given that historically there have been women in leadership roles, including Queen Victoria who was queen before this film’s time frame.
It was just unnecessary.
The movie overall isn’t terrible but it isn’t the best film out there either. It’s an OK film for the genre. I think it finally finds it’s groove and picks up in the last 1/4 of the movie. It wraps up the ending well, and you have three characters that could go off on other adventures if they wanted to do more films.
If this was a few years ago I would probably be less critical of it, but the last few years have made me more aware and critical. Of course this is all just my opinion and you are free to agree or disagree.
I would rate it a 6.5 out of 10.
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