Disney’s latest fantasy-adventure comedy “Jungle Cruise,” based on the well-worn water ride that was once a highlight of a visit to the company’s theme parks in Orlando and Anaheim, Calif., may be an assortment . The film starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has its charms — mainly the 2 leads’ charisma and likability — but the concoction that’s one part “African Queen and one part “Pirates of the Caribbean” with a jigger of “20,000 Leagues Under the ocean,” never quite mixes into a tasty cocktail.
Watching the movie jogged my memory of drinking a glass of milk that hadn’t been stirred properly. Just an uneven experience. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who is additionally helming Johnson’s super-villain flick “Black Adam” next year’s for Warner Bros., delivers some fun slapstick that’s deftly orchestrated, but the movie bogs down with convoluted super-natural elements that just don’t work and were frankly unnecessary. The film attempts to drive within the same lane as Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies but misses the connection. The Indiana Jones films dote on the action-adventure a part of the potion with just a pinch of the supernatural to feature some zest.
With “Jungle Cruise,” the hokum feels tacked on with leftover notes from Disney’s Pirate films. There’s some nice CGI work with a trio of ghoulish villains, but we’ve seen this too repeatedly before for it to be scary, thrilling, or exciting. What does work is Blunt as Dr. Lilly Houghton, a lady who is before her time during this picture set during war I. She is completely charming because of the eccentric adventurer who doesn’t accept her place in society. She pulls a variety of slapstick bits early within the film that employment wonderfully well. Her character is somewhat like Catherine Hepburn’s Rose Sayer in “African Queen,” but she’s no missionary. She’s in search of the legendary Tree of Life.
While Johnson’s acting skills have improved greatly over the years, here, he counts mainly on his abundance of charisma with an anachronistic performance as Skipper Frank Wolff that’s almost in tone with Blunt’s work, but it isn’t exactly off-putting either. Johnson and Blunt do have a fun chemistry together that’s perhaps the film’s greatest asset aside from the gorgeous cinematograph by Flavio Labiano that harkens back great adventure films of the past, and James Newton Howard’s exhilarating score. Jack Whitehall shines as MacGregor Houghton, Lilly’s brother and assistant, who is everything she’s not. He and Johnson play rich one another during a number of scenes.
Jesse Plemons, however, doesn’t fair quite also as Prince Joachim, a German aristocrat and submarine captain who is additionally in seeking the Tree of Life. Plemons is threatening and funny within the role, but it’s a really broad performance that becomes too cartoonish to be enjoyable. Likewise, Paul Giamatti chews the scenery as harbormaster Nilo Nemolato, doing his angry-man routine. Johnson’s character owns a pet leopard within the film that’s a CGI character. While the cat is charming enough, the CGI work on the animal isn’t as convincing as most of the opposite CGI elements within the movie. I celebrated watching the film because of the performances of Blunt, Whitehall, and Johnson, but it does hamper within the middle because the super-natural aspects become more prevalent. There’s a reveal about Frank at the climax that hurts the film quite it helps.
If you’re a lover of The Rock or Blunt, the movie could be worth pursuing at some point, but I’d suggest waiting several months until Disney Plus drops the $30 surcharge. Director Huston didn’t win either of his Best Director Oscars for “The Asphalt Jungle,” the 1950 noir classic that plays at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Turner Classic Movies, but in hindsight, maybe he should have taken home a 3rd. “The Asphalt Jungle” may be a tight, hard-hitting crime story that’s a touch unconventional for when it had been made. The movie has no identifiable heroes, just desperate characters making unscrupulous choices that ultimately backfire in their faces.
The crux of the film may be a jewelry heist that goes awry, despite the careful planning of criminal mastermind Doc (Sam Jaffe) when the nitroglycerine explosion wont to blow open the safe disrupts the facility grid and sends security guards to the scene of the crime. When hired muscle Dix (Sterling Hayden) slugs an arriving watchman, the guard drops his gun, which discharges, wounding safecracker Louis (Anthony Caruso) within the gut. The rest of the film deals with how the varied crooks make mistakes along the way that finishes up landing them in jail or the morgue. Dix finishes up being the most character whose end goal is to attain enough dough to shop for back the family ranch that his parents lost within the depression. It’s a noble goal, but one he and his girlfriend “Doll” (Jean Hagen) can’t quite accomplish.
The film is expertly crafted by Huston, who may be a master of composition. What could are a convoluted story remains clear and on point throughout because of Huston’s deft storytelling techniques and instincts. The film set a replacement standard for all future noir films, proving that antiheroes might be as compelling if less so than the quality Hollywood plug-ugly . No doubt this movie influenced Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” and Martin Scorsese’s “Good Fellas.” The film also features one among the earliest roles of Monroe, who only features a smallish but memorable part as Angela. The role launched Monroe’s career. The story goes that Huston was getting to expire Monroe for the part until he watched her exit her audition. Huston reportedly said Monroe was “one of the few actresses who could make an entrance by leaving the space,” consistent with film historian Eddie Muller’s book “Art of Noir.”