'Jungle Cruise' Review
Get your cocktails and mosquito repellents ready because it's Jungle Cruise time, baby. Since we're nowadays adapting films and television from anything and everywhere, why not adapt a Disneyland ride of the same name for some fantastical, mega-budget adventures and hire Jaume Collet-Serra to lead the way, a director known for horror and thriller movies. Emily Blunt plays Dr. Lily Houghton, a scientist whose expertise is botany, who along with her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) travel to Amazon where they set out to find a plant called Tears Of The Moon which has immense healing powers. Joining their expedition through the jungle is a riverboat captain Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) while the trio collects couple of adversaries trying to get the plant first, a German aristocrat Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) and an imperialist in ghost-like form played by Edgar Ramírez.
Much of Jungle Cruise floats along nicely, striking a resemblance to other films featuring boat adventures or navigating through a jungle, structurally and script-wise playing out like your typical summer blockbuster. In the middle of all your conventional story beats and overflowing VFX is surprisingly a tonally perfect performance by Johnson, it's almost like a fitting role shirt has finally figured out the size of his massive chest and shoulders. Pushing him from a great lead outing to possibly his best to date is his chemistry mainly with Blunt, with some sharp banter between two of them, but also with Whitehall who on the other hand brings his comedic chops to a fairly empty character, improving the material. On the flip side, Plemons has subsequently turned in his weakest performance I have certainly seen from him, bringing out a boring, one-note bit that adds nothing to the movie whatsoever.
Lily and Frank are really the only characters with some sort of depth and charm in them, Johnson has his fun with all the dad jokes that balance out the CGI traps and spirits well while Lily's determination comes through Blunt's body language and reactions. The ''villains'' are kind of just there to move along the plot, typical animal sidekick is a hit or miss and MacGregor is disappointingly equivocal (you'll never know if he's gay, asexual, in love with his sister or what). The most obvious failure in the movie however is James Newton Howard's hideous musical score that has everything going wrong for it; melodies, brass stabs and percussive elements so dull that he seems to have written them while asleep, zero elegance in dynamics which is also why it's often too high in the sound mix and it distracts you from emotional moments as it doesn't let them breathe (it tries to make you feel, instead of guiding you). On top of all, there's an awful remix of Metallica's 'Nothing Else Matters' that feels shoehorned in for no good reason, sacrificing Collet-Serra's tone with its absurdity.
Smileys: Dwayne Johnson, humour
Frowneys: Score, Jesse Plemons, characterisation
What should you bring to a cruise instead of a guitar, like Frank did? A Tom.