Hi! It’s Annie!
When I heard that Disney had this movie in the works, I was ecstatic. As much as Disney Live Action has been disappointing me lately, most of that has to do with remake type stuff. I am more than ok with what Disney has been doing when it comes to original content. Especially theme park rides. I have always loved the idea of fleshing out more of the classic theme park rides in Disneyland. And Jungle Cruise is definitely a classic! Despite my excitement, I was a little scared going into this movie. And that really didn’t have anything to do with the trailers or anything like that. Those were great! It was just how mixed the reviews were when this movie first came out. A lot of people were saying that it was trying really hard to be ‘The Mummy’ or ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and that it wasn’t nearly good enough for any of that. But, I’m going to be honest here, this is one of my favorite Disney movies I’ve seen in a while. I loved this film and I really had so much fun with it too. But, as always, I am actually going to get into it. So, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
Frank- Frank was a character that I was afraid would be written off as the dumb but tough hero we usually see in movies such as ‘The Mummy’. Which can make for an amusing character, but generally doesn’t have a whole lot of depth. Thankfully, this was not an issue that I saw here. Whatever you think about Frank in this movie, you’re probably wrong. It’s just that simple. Frank has so many layers that slowly peel away over the course of the movie. He’s one of those characters that is unpredictable in the best ways. He just keeps on surprising you and the other characters in the film. And I’m not just talking about emotion based character development. About half way through the film, Frank is impaled with a spear during an ambush and through this you find out that Frank can’t die. At least not yet. He was part of the cursed conquistadors who were originally trying to find the Tears Of the Moon tree. Though the quest began with good intentions, it ended with the conquistadors attempting to slaughter an entire tribe and getting cursed. Frank was the only one who tried to protect the tribe, but he was still grouped in with the curse. Which is that they can never leave the river. Frank is revealed to be four hundred years old and spends all of his time on the river by himself. This was an unexpected and amazing plot twist that gave his character so much depth and wisdom. I loved the message about the importance of other people and love in your life. And Frank is the master of bad jokes. He’s just lovable, and part of that is because Dwayne Johnson is also very lovable. When Frank gets his happy ending, you can’t help but cheer for him.
Lily- Lily is the type of character that I would have been so excited to see when I was little. She’s adventurous, she has just as many action scenes as Frank (if not more), and she’s often the smartest person in the room. Lily refuses to wear skirts, so instead wears trousers everywhere despite people staring and it making others uncomfortable. Her intelligence shines through in every scene she’s in and they spend much of the time focusing on her odd quirks. Often times she’s the one who’s running through towns Jack Sparrow style and causing mischief. And I couldn’t get enough of that. She’s also the one with the signature and beloved hat. I’ve always wanted to see this type of character in an action movie like this. I could watch an entire series of movies starring this character. Lily is definitely a menace, but in the absolute best way. She’s also the most emotionally intelligent character in the film and gives such good advice about truly living. And I really can’t picture anyone portraying this many sides to this character so well as Emily Blunt. She owns this film just as much as Dwayne Johnson. Both together and apart they shine on screen. They both seem made for movies like this.
McGregor- Lily’s brother is also absolutely amazing. He’s both hilarious and a needed foil for the insanity of Frank and Lily. His posh attitude is more witty than anything else and his character development in learning to appreciate the adventuring is even better. He is also the first confirmed gay man in a Disney film. In a heart-to-heart with Frank, McGregor reveals that his family had been attempting to marry him off to several women. All of which he turned down and assured that he would never accept a proposal from because his interests lie elsewhere. If that isn’t enough for you, he goes on to explain that his entire family turned their backs on him except for Lily all because of who he loved. I think that made it pretty clear, though I understand why people wanted more from that. I just hope that we possibly get a love interest for his character in the future. Beyond that, he will be just as dear of a character to you as Frank and Lily. He’s adorable and has some of the best lines in the film. And, of course, Jack Whitehall was amazing in this role. His comedic timing was excellent! Though I do wish they had cast a gay man as McGregor.
Cast Chemistry- One of the best things about this movie was that the cast liked each other and was having fun with it. And you could tell. The characters worked together effortlessly. Nothing felt like it was too forced or had too little of a buildup. They felt like a team from the get-go and they were always completely believable. I would watch these three together in any film after this. They work so well together!
The References- For those of you, like me, who grew up going to Disneyland or any of the parks; there are plenty of references to take you back to your time at Disney. Of course, Frank starts out the movie giving touristy Jungle Cruise rides where he uses many of the actual jokes from the park ride. Such as the back side of water and not taking rocks for granite. But there are plenty of other hilarious dad jokes in this movie and some really cool nods to the killer hippos and the piranhas in the attraction. Plus plenty more. I couldn’t stop smiling with every reference that I caught. Also, look out for a Tiki Room reference that also made its way into the film.
Trader Sam- Have you ever wondered who exactly Trader Sam is after the brief nod in the ride that has now been rightfully removed? According to the movie, Sam is a woman. She’s the leader of a tribe that is completely peaceful and sometimes helps out Frank in scaring tourists, but it appears that she’s pretty done with this. She also helps McGregor for much of the film and she knows about Frank’s curse. Despite the other characters badassery in this film, you would be hard-pressed to find another character more badass than her. And at least Disney is attempting to make Sam a more positive character. I also loved the scene where McGregor was talking to a crowd of men about all the crazy things he saw on his journey at the end, only for all of them to only majorly and comically react to the fact that Sam was a woman. That made me laugh.
The Tribes- I liked what they did to Sam for the most part, but I have to say that I’m a little confused by the presence and the use of her and the other native tribes in this film. Especially after they took out all traces of any kinds of tribes from the ride. And rightfully so. I don’t feel it’s my place to say how well or not well done this was. But I’m not sure the native tribes were written with as much care as they could have been.
The Villains- I have to say it, none of the villains were as good as they could have been. I liked the undead conquistadors much more than I thought I would. That was actually a pretty good storyline. But it wasn’t focused on nearly enough. I would have liked to see more of those characters focused on with the curse backstory instead of mostly just Frank. And I definitely think that Frank needed a longer confrontation at the end with Aguirre specifically. Then there was the entire plot with the nazis and they just didn’t need to be there. I think movies making nazi villains is getting really overused and tired and I constantly asked myself what their purpose in the movie even was. You definitely watch this movie more for the adventure than the battle between good and evil. I’ve seen a lot of people condemn this movie for not having the best villains, but that doesn’t make the film unenjoyable for me. I mean, in my eyes ‘Indiana Jones’ never really had amazing villains. (One of the movies also had nazis as villains.) But those movies were still good because of the adventure. This is the same way.
I didn’t really have a whole lot to say about this movie that’s bad. I really loved it! The characters were amazing and the entire thing felt like one of those lighthearted adventures that could easily become one of my next comfort movies. Will it be the best movie you’ve ever seen? Probably not. But it’s fun, witty, and has such good heart and character chemistry. It definitely stole my breath as well as my attention. And, trust me, my attention span hasn’t been the best these days. Don’t let the negative reviews scare you off! I would say that this movie deserves a try. And I think that Disney really could franchise this one too. I could see these characters in many more adventuring movies and you can bet that I would be right there when they released.
See you across the pond!