As someone who doesn’t watch Disney movies, I’ve done quite poorly in the last few years. As well as watching the modern classics Ratatouille (in preparation for riding it at DLP — three times, no wait) and Tangled (to find out who Flynn Rider is — essential, really, if I’m going to marry him) I’ve seen quite a few of the new live-action movies: Beauty and the Beast (on the plane to WDW), Mary Poppins Returns (at DS on a stormy day), Cruella, and now Jungle Cruise.
I have concerns about IP at Disney theme parks — I’ve ranted before about how DLP destroyed their version of Space Mountain by rebranding it as some Star Wars nonsense. It’s one thing to make a ride based on a movie, but now movies based on rides? My expectations were muted. I mean, how good could it be?
Well, very good, actually. The critics aren’t very keen, but the public are, and I always prefer to look at their scores on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s wildly imaginative and creative and really demands to be seen on a big screen, and not my 48-inch TV. The colours and detail are overwhelming and I struggle to imagine how such a thing is made. Sometimes the special effects are too much — think the hot mess that is the Transformers franchise: I prefer long, slowly panning shots where I can take it all in. But there’s plenty of those, too.
Dwayne Johnson does a first class job. Any doubts I might have had about someone from his movie background carrying a film like this were dispelled at an early stage. Who doesn’t love Emily Blunt — though it took me a while to stop seeing her as Mary Poppins. She doesn’t play it as Mary Poppins, but there are echoes. Jack Whitehall may be new to you — he’s done some fantastically funny comedy in the UK, but has also bombed. He’s great in this.
Very minor spoiler: Once again Disney very gently pushes the envelope of inclusivity in a very moving scene in which Whitehall comes out to Johnson, who reacts in exactly the way you would hope. There have been complaints that the word “gay” is not actually used, nor is Whitehall’s sexuality explored, but baby steps, people. I think it’s a big deal for Disney to have done this. America is slow to progress on these issues. We don’t want to scare it off.
Minor spoiler: They push the envelope again when we discover that Trader Sam is a lady! Gosh.
I wouldn’t describe the movie as a comedy, though the tone is light and there are funny moments. One particularly laugh-out-loud moment when a character you want to die dies hilariously. It’s an action / adventure movie that varies in pace, but never gets boring, and is never stressful — perilous situations are always quickly resolved. (I haven’t watched Dumbo because I know bad things happen to him and I would not be able to bear to watch.)
My ratings scale is this:
Walked out of the movie
Fell asleep during the movie
Looked at my watch or phone during the movie
Did neither of the foregoing
Would watch / did watch the movie again
Saw the movie at the cinema one evening and then saw it again the very next day because my mind had been blown. (Only ever awarded once — to Jurassic Park.)
On this scale, River Cruise is
Which is a solid recommendation.
Beauty and the Beast
Mary Poppins Returns