‘Jungle Cruise’ or — ‘The African Queen’ written by an Unhinged Bot?
Ever wondered what it would be like if you combined Werner Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ (1972) with John Huston’s ‘The African Queen’ (1951) and transformed the result into a two hour long kid’s movie? No, neither have I and I would’ve doubted any rational or sane person would ‘ve either. So it seems that the execs at Disney are in no way rational or sane people because that’s exactly what they’ve done with ‘Jungle Cruise’ (2021), which is only appropriate as this movie feels neither written nor directed but constructed solely from studio diktats (‘Jungle Cruise’ is based on a Disney theme park ride which, going by the movie, must consist of simply sitting in an artificial river boat whilst corporate studio memos go floating by).
Emily Blunt plays Katherine Hepburn who is desperately searching for an arrow head which will lead her and her ‘John Hannah from ‘The Mummy’ (1999) stand-in brother’ up the Amazon to the Tree of Life which holds the secret to ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise.
Dwayne Johnson dresses like Humphrey Bogart and runs jungle cruises for tourists and agrees to help Emily Blunt discover the secret to ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise, so they set off up the Amazon by means of re-enacting ‘The Mummy’ whilst being chased by ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ (1981) not-quite-Nazi villains because it’s only 1916 after all (this might be the only concession to “reality” in the entire movie).
Their trip takes them through dense and treacherous CGI fakery meaning that there will be zero tension in this movie and where the only drama is wondering whether or not the effects artist’s computer will be able to fully render the next artificial backdrop before the characters chug into view.
Because there is no drama and/or tension the studio execs demand that humour must be employed to keep the audience “entertained”, and it must be a very specific type of humour but, luckily, it’s one that Disney have spent a fortune refining in their air-sealed comedy laboratories over the past couple of years and that’s — humour which feels and sounds like improvised humour but is actually carefully and precisely scripted to feel and sound like improvised humour even though it isn’t improvised humour. This increases the fakery levels exponentially.
They then reach the source of ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise and discover that the secret to ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise is — SPOILERS — heavily CGI’d pirates. That and making sure ALL your movie’s action scenes must be shot in extreme close ups so you can’t really see what’s meant to be going on and then edited into a state of visual frenzy so you REALLY can’t see what’s meant to be going on.
Then, at the end, the film makes sure one of its lead characters dies but doesn’t really die so the American population can come out of the cinema with the single most important sensation and message that Disney studio execs want them to experience and learn — that mortality and death don’t exist in any way whatsoever and that the audience’s fragile illusion of never having to worry about non-existence will be left perfectly intact and unmolested by brute facts.
So that’s Jungle Cruise’ — a two hour, incomprehensible, unnatural affront on every single level that cost $300 million to make and market. This isn’t a trip up an Amazonian river; this is yellow-water ride down the huge, spurting cascade of money Disney has just pissed up against the wall.