Jungle Cruise (2021)

Jungle Cruise
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcón, Dani Rovira, Quim Gutiérrez, Dan Dargan Carter, Andy Nyman
Seen on: 30.7.2021

Content Note: colonialism

Lily (Emily Blunt) is a scientist, an archaeologist and an adventurer – even if the establishment doesn’t want to hear her theories about the Tears of the Moon, a mythical tree that can supposedly cure all ills and that she is sure isn’t just a myth. Not even when she sends her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to speak for her to academia. But with the discovery of a long-forgotten relic, Lily is sure that she can find the Tears of the Moon, even if she has to deploy creative methods to get it. Soon, she and MacGregor make their way to the Amazonas river where they hire skipper Frank (Dwayne Johnson) and his boat to get them to the tree. But they are not the only ones after the Tears of the Moon. And Frank comes with his own troubles, too.

Jungle Cruise was super entertaining (in a surprisingly gory way). I honestly didn’t expect to have as much fun with it as I did, even if the film isn’t without issues. But I’d say, the entertainment outweighs the issues by far.

The film poster showing drawings of Frank (Dwayne Johnson) and Lily (Emily Blunt) in front of a jungle background. Below them, we can see Frank's boat going over some rapids, as well as other characters in the film, much smaller.

Okay, to get this out of the way: my problems with the film was first and foremost that it pretty much entirely ignores the native perspective and claim on the Tears of the Moon. The question is only which colonizer gets to the tree first or has nobler motives. The few remaining natives seem to have no interest in their history, either, and are just in the film to help the heroes (aka the colonizers with the best motives). This could and should have been better handled.

In addition to this, MacGregor was a bit of a stereotype of a gay dude and is only saved from entire tropiness by Whitehall’s humanizing performance (then again, he actually gets to be out in a Disney film and the homomisia he faced is touched upon in a thoughtful manner – and he is not the most flamboyant character – that prize goes to Jesse Plemons’ pretty astonishing Joachim). Plus, the ending is incredibly harsh to the cursed people and would have needed a softening scene desperately. And finally, much to my surprise: the romance between Frank and Lily feels pretty half-hearted. There is just no real romantic chemistry between Johnson and Blunt (there is plenty of all other kinds of chemistry, though). I’m pretty sure that they had too much fun with everything else to connect on that level.

Frank (Dwayne Johnson) and Lily (Emily Blunt) on Frank's boat, looking intently at something.

To be fair, that last part might be me projecting because I had too much fun to care about that in any case. And Blunt and Johnson are plenty charming and excellent in all other respects – it is a joy to watch them crash their way through the Amazonas, often quite literally. They are funny, and they bring the necessary energy to the film to make its fast pace feel easy. I also liked that it is pretty open in its feminist criticism of the patriarchy (I mean, don’t expect too much from it – it’s period-appropriate feminism. But it’s more than I expected).

The film has some really nice horror touches and is surprisingly gory for a Disney film that is otherwise aimed at tweens, probably. Before seeing it, I would have thought that the elementary school kids in my family would probably have fun with this one, but after seeing it, I slapped on another five years to that estimate. But if you clear that age hurdle, I am sure that you’ll have a blast with it.

Frank (Dwayne Johnson) and Lily (Emily Blunt) looking upwards at the camera.

Summarizing: great entertainment.

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