Movie Review: Jungle Cruise (English)

JUNGLE CRUISE is the story of a trio trying to find a magical Tree that can cure all illnesses. In 1556, Don Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) leads Spanish conquistadors to South America in search of the Lágrimas de Cristal Tree aka Tears of the Moon, whose flowers can cure illnesses, heal injuries and lift curses. Most conquistadors die due to jungle-related illnesses. Don Aguirre and a few of his associates are rescued by the Guardians of the Tree. They are healed using the Tree’s flowers. When Don Aguirre asks the tribal chief about the Tree’s location, the latter refuses. Don Aguirre then sets their village on fire. Before his death, the tribal chief curses Don Aguirre and his associates. Due to the curse, they can’t leave the sight of the river again and they can neither live nor die. In 1916, MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) requests the members of the Royal Anthropological And Diverse Adventure Society, London for access to an ancient Arrowhead recovered by a certain Dr Albert Falls. The members of the society, however, refuse permission. MacGregor’s sister, Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a botanist, sneaks into the Society building and steals the Arrowhead. She is looking to find Tears of the Moon and feels that the Arrowhead can help her in locating the Tree. While she steals the Arrowhead, she also almost gets caught by Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), an ambitious German royal who is also seeking the Tree. MacGregor and Lily then arrive at Porto Velho, Brazil, from where the Tree’s location is the nearest. They hire skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), who offers the cheapest cruise ride of the Amazon river and who’s perceived to be quite tough and knowledgeable about the topography. The adventure begins but it's not going to be an easy one. The route is dangerous and moreover, Prince Joachim has also reached Porto Velho. To find the Tree and defeat Team Lily, he locates Don Aguirre and his associates and gets them back to ‘life’. On the other hand, Lily realizes that Frank is mysterious and has been lying to her the whole time about several things. What happens next forms the rest of the film.

John Norville, Josh Goldstein, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's story is formulaic and clichéd but is entertaining. Like THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, JUNGLE CRUISE is also based on a theme park attraction at Disney World. Glenn Ficarra, John Requa and Michael Gree's screenplay is light and is peppered with loads of fun and thrilling moments. A few twists in the second half also keep the interest going. The writers also make an interesting comment on how women were treated then and how Dr Lily proves misogynist men wrong; this bit will surely be lapped up by the audiences. However, the second half gets a bit heavy especially the track of Don Aguirre. Also, despite the unexpected twists, the overall narrative is predictable as there have been several such films in this genre. Dialogues are very well worded and add to the humour quotient. Dwayne Johnson’s corny one-liners are hilarious.

Jaume Collet-Serra's direction follows the standard template seen in jungle adventure films. The filmmaker in the past has handled small and mid-sized films. This is his first biggie but the way he executes it shows that he knows his job well. The characters are very well introduced, the setting is well explained and that he keeps the tone of the film light will help in attracting families and kids. He also deserves praise for the way he has fleshed out electrifying chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. On the flipside, the film gives a strong déjà vu of films like THE MUMMY, JUMANJI, INDIANA JONES and THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. JUNGLE CRUISE is like a <em>bhel puri</em> of the template, setting and such other elements of the aforementioned films. The second half could have been better or more novel. Also, the film releases too late in India. It had a release in the USA on July 30 in cinemas as well as on Disney+. As a result, its pirated copies have been out for more than 50 days. Hence, just like it happened with FAST &amp; FURIOUS 9, JUNGLE CRUISE has already been seen by many Indian moviegoers, and this would affect the footfalls.

JUNGLE CRUISE starts off very well. The chase sequence inside the Royal Society involving Dr Lily sets the mood. Dr Lily and Frank’s first meeting is hilarious and so is Frank’s subsequent fight with a jaguar. The cruise ride begins with a bang as Frank’s boat is attacked by a torpedo. How Frank, Dr Lily and MacGregor survive this attack is too good. The waterfall scene is nail biting. In the second half, the twist in the tribal track is fine but it’s not as interesting. The scene where Frank reveals the truth about his identity is sure to shock viewers as they would not see it coming. In the pre-climax, the scene where Dr Lily goes underwater arrests attention. But it’s too unconvincing as Dr Lily is shown to have a phobia of swimming. Yet, in her first attempt at going underwater, she manages to nearly unlock the lever leading to the Tree and it’s too difficult to digest. The climax fight is fine but predictable. The film ends on a little abrupt note.

Dwayne Johnson brings the star power to the film and is absolutely entertaining. He also ensures that his character looks different from his act in JUMANJI, which was also a jungle adventure. Emily Blunt is quite lovable in the role, which can be described as the female Indiana Jones. She is great in action scenes and her comic timing is spot on. The scene where she is required to remove a sword from Dwayne’s chest is too funny, thanks to her. Jack Whitehall delivers a fine performance and contributes a lot to the laughter quotient. The scene where he tells Dwayne Johnson about his past is memorable. Edgar Ramirez is okay. Jesse Plemons is decent but raises laughs in the scene where he mispronounces ‘jungle’. Paul Giamatti (Nilo Nemolato) and Veronica Falcón (Trader Sam, chief of the Puka Michuna tribe) do very well but get limited scope.

James Newton Howard's music has the elements of the adventure of period drama and it works. Flavio Labiano's cinematography is spectacular. Jean-Vincent Puzos's production design is detailed. Paco Delgado's costumes are very impressive. The Amelia Earhart-inspired clothes of Emily Blunt especially are praiseworthy. Action is fun and sans violence and blood. VFX is extraordinary, which was expected. Joel Negron's editing is neat.

On the whole, JUNGLE CRUISE is formulaic and clichéd but manages to give an entertaining time to the viewers and has tremendous appeal for kids and family audiences. Unlike SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS and FREE GUY, this film will have a 3D release in India. This and the casting of Dwayne Johnson, a popular actor even for Indian masses, will help the film get footfalls. On the other hand, it is releasing nearly two months after its release in the USA and on Disney+. As a result, its pirated prints have flooded the internet for a long time and this would affect the box office to an extent.

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