We’re cruising right along into the second half of the long countdown of worst films. The ball is back in Ponty’s court, and he’s picked a real doozy to mark the halfway point.
Is there anything wokery hasn’t poisoned with its foolishness? Apparently, Ponty’s pick for #5, 2021’s Jungle Cruise, suggests not. A movie based on a theme park ride worked before for Disney, but that was a bit of a fluke; taking an even more obscure ride, then adding in loads of anachronistic presentism, was hoping for too much, even for The Mouse.
One of our regular readers and commenters, Alys Williams, is always wanting me to review flicks with bonnets and Biedermeier, but even those films are jumping on the identity bandwagon. I have no problem with black people in movies—I mean, who doesn’t love Blade (1998)?—but a black English queen is too much. Why? Because it’s not historically accurate!
Sure, historical fiction can embellish some details here and there, but we’re really straining suspension of disbelief when a Nigerian portrays a Viking. Imagine casting Chris Hemsworth as an African Pygmy—he’d stick out like a sore giant.
But I digress. On with Ponty’s hilarious review of 2021’s Jungle Cruise:
We’re finally down to the final five, the movies I believe are the worst of the lot. To reiterate, my choices from 10-6 were mostly films I despise but which could quite easily have been replaced by a whole plethora of films that fortunately (or unfortunately, regarding your perspective) I can’t remember, having completely wiped them from my memory. A few of those films will gain dishonourable mentions on my number one entry. Some though are so terrible that no matter how hard you try, you can always remember them. They burn a hole inside your brain, that tiny dark place that you never go to until something reminds you of it and you find yourself reaching for the paracetamol and the bottle. This is one of those films.
We have a decent stock of family movies we dig out for various holidays throughout the year but we like to add to it whenever and wherever we can. This Easter, we had a look for King of Kings (1961) but could only find it for purchase on Prime TV and since we like hard copies, we decided on a fun adventure we’d recently seen on a trailer.
Back when we had the TV license, we’d have plonked ourselves down one evening, lights dimmed, a glass of wine and some movie grub, ready to watch one of the Pirates films, Tolkien flicks, Jurassic Park (1993) or the like but ever since we stopped paying blood money to the BBC, we’ve come to rely on DVDs we already own or recently purchased offerings. Going back to that time though, our various broadcasters treated Easter like Christmas, putting on all sorts of family entertainment to keep its audience riveted. From what I hear, they don’t do that anymore—anything to do with Christianity and our mainstream broadcasters shrivel up like an aged sultana—but if they did, I imagine, it’d be crap like Jungle Cruise (2021), a movie so lacking in identity that by the time you get to the end, you’ll still be scratching your head and wondering what movie you just sat through. As with most bad movies, we willed it to be better as it went on. We usually do – ‘this film has to get better’ – but our hopes were dashed scene after scene and it got to the point where we started playing games on our tablets so we didn’t have to give it our full focus. Tina lost the will to live before I did.
We bought this movie on the strength of Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) being good in Jumanji 2 (2019) and Emily Blunt being good in everything else. Tina is a huge fan of Blunt, who is a pretty versatile British actress. She played the precocious Queen Victoria (Young Victoria, 2009), the snarky secretary in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), the American heiress in Death on the Nile (2004) and the struggling mother in A Quiet Place (2018) and was excellent in all those roles. It made perfect sense that she’d be good in this too but to be honest, we should have looked at who made it—rather than who was in it—before picking it up. Disney are going more Woke with every passing day and they didn’t miss an opportunity to reimagine 1910s Britain and South America for modern sensibilities. One of the main characters is gay, and the other is what is known as a Mary Sue—no obvious flaws, physically or otherwise. White upper class guests mingle on the cruise with black counterparts. It just wouldn’t have happened but we’re expected to believe it because it’s fantasy. Can you imagine the uproar in 1910s London on seeing a well respected white woman with a black man? But this is Disney. To them, the world was always rosy and multicultural and gay people and black people were perfectly accepted with barely a whimper. It’s not up to me, as the audience, to condone or condemn the context, but only recognise that in historical terms, this world could not have existed. Since Disney saw fit to be inclusive, I see fit to criticise it. As for the plot, where do we start?
Scientist, Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt), ostracised from the Royal Society by EVIL OLD WHITE MEN, takes her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to South America in search of the fabled Lagrimas da Cristal Tree, which is supposed to carry leaves with extraordinary healing powers. They find a guide, Frank Wolff (Johnson), to take them up the Amazon and are pursued by ze Germans, also after the mysterious flower. When they arrive at their destination, there is the added danger of Spanish conquistadors who were cursed trying to find the Tree and Frank holds a secret that no one cares about. They take a flower from the tree then fresh from their success, return to London where Houghton becomes a full professor, the younger Houghton rejects the Royal Society, and Lily and Frank, resplendent in outfits that could be seen in space, explore London together.
I wanted to like this film and in the right hands, it could have been done very well. Though the plot could have come right out of a Pirates writing school, it needed a free reign and Disney were never going to give them that so what you have is a film with more holes than Dillinger’s corpse and a cast which looked out of place, appearing to forget how to act. It also didn’t help that it was made by an alphabet brigade keen to get out THE MESSAGE (thanks Drinker!), making sure that diversity tickboxes were crossed off while putting out a film that was a genre mashed hackjob of several different, and much better, movies. There are references in this flick to Indiana Jones, The Mummy, The African Queen, and the Pirates series. In one of the scenes, it looked like they’d also carbon copied a playable sequence from one of the Tomb Raider reboots. I don’t have an issue with writers and directors paying homage to better predecessors but I do have a problem when that’s all the film is; no originality, no spark, just a series of events that chart someone else’s genius. Jungle Cruise looked like it had been made by a bunch of people who had only seen a handful of films in their entire lives, complained through all of them and then decided, in their extremely finite wisdom, to blend all of them together. Slick. As Tina said, it was as much as a failure as Esperanto, the language so hodgepodged, no one knew what to do with it.
They couldn’t even make their own rules track. For instance, Frank’s secret (look away now if you care) is that he is one of the conquistadors who arrived in the 16th century but mysteriously wasn’t subject to the curse that befell his crewmates and captain, who all have the appearance of Salazar and his crewmates in Pirates 5. Why were they all trapped by the jungle with the countenance of Keith Richards on a heavy night but Frank remained buff, youthful and could move where he liked without any consequences? There may have been an explainer for that (probably flimsy and stupid) but like I said, by this time, Tina and I were still in the process of trying to drink the pain away. If you watch the film, you’ll find more like this.
There’s a scene where MacGregor pours his heart out to Frank about being a retiscent homosexual. Now, think about that for a moment. This isn’t set in modern times on the Oprah Winfrey Show. This is a scene where a gay man tells a 16th century heterosexual conquistador how awful it is to repress his urges. How do you think that might play out? But of course, this is reimagined Disney tripe and Wolff is sooo understanding. I’m not saying The Rock should have torn his head off and thrown him to the piranhas but come on, why set your film to a completely different time period to the messages you’re trying to convey? Unless it’s to give your young audience the impression that this supposedly inclusive society we now inhabit has always been, it just seemed like a waste of time to me.
Some of the language in it is very modern. Could you imagine anyone saying, in the 1910s, that someone was being a bit weird? No, I can’t either. Maybe Disney thought that an audience hearing English, as it is meant to be spoken, would be too difficult for their sensitive ears.
One of the other things that pissed me off about this film was how little used Paul Giamatti was. The guy is a talented and versatile actor and was in this movie for as long as it took me to neck my first glass of wine. Why bring in such a good actor and use him so sparingly?
The CGI for the Tree was gorgeous but they couldn’t get it right with Wolff’s companion, Proxima, a jaguar he’d rescued and trained. In this day and age, with the sort of technology used, you’d think they could do a wild animal properly (look at Sheva in The Walking Dead for an impressive CGI specimen) but no. Frank might as well have been accompanied by an annoying talking rabbit and his femme fatale wife.
I was umming and ahhing over whether to move this film further up the list but when you read the dross that follows, you might understand why it rightly retains its place at five. This was a movie with so much potential but when the Woke take hold of anything nowadays, you know they’re going to churn out a turd. This film, no doubt, will be just a pile amongst the diarrhoea that follows.