Disneyland Ride Movies (Part 7)
We did say at the beginning that there were more of these than you thought. We are now at the final entry of this seven-part series. It certainly made our week with COVID…well, worse, but it passed the time. Now for the last, and latest, movie based on a Disneyland attraction.
Movie: Jungle Cruise
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Whitehall, Édgar Ramírez, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti
Plot: Dr. Lily Houghton and her put-upon brother journeys to South America in search of the famed Lágrimas de Cristal tree of myth, guided along the Amazon by skipper Frank Wolff. Their quest will involve dangerous tribes, vicious jungle creatures, cursed undying conquistadors, a deranged German aristocrat and Frank’s mysteries past.
The Ride: What makes The Jungle Cruise significant in this list because it was an attraction available to the public on the opening day of Disneyland, and had more direct input from Walt himself. The premise is simple, but the execution was anything but. An automatic ride is one thing, but sending boats along a river track with a live guide and an array of animatronic scenes is more than a little complicated. In order to meet Walt’s standards of quality, hundreds of plants had to be sourced, bought, and replanted around the ride to create the illusion of being in a real jungle.
Once getting settled on their vessel, guests will experience all manner of animals and other characters including bathing elephants, blow-pipe welding tribesmen, ruined temples, cheeky monkeys and more narrated by their skipper complete with bad jokes. The tone of the game has shifted over time, with the original idea was to immerse the guests into a genuine-feeling jungle experience. As this became a less-unique experience in the changing world, the tone has become more comedic with more ‘gag’ scenes. This would include a group of explorers chased up a tree by an angry rhinoceros while hyenas laugh at their misfortune.
The Jungle Cruise has been going strong, with regular updates and adjustments. The heart of the ride has remained unchanged, and remains an attraction with a live tour guide. More boats have been added, the guides no longer pack heat to fight off crocodiles, but it’s basically the same. The experience has been recreated in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland, with a version in Hong Kong Disneyland that made some differences including involving Tarzan’s Treehouse.
Review: There’s a reason why we left this one until the end. We knew we’d enjoy it in an uncomplicated way and it’s a jolly good time. As we reviewed this only last year, we don’t have much to say about it, so let’s do an overview.
We get a no-nonsense, ahead of her time adventure woman named Dr. Lily (Blunt), who is on a noble quest that will involve plenty of hijinks and knocking things over. She’s got more in common with Indiana Jones than any other character, sharing his problem and puzzle solving skills and academically driven motivation. Her foil is Frank Wollf (Johnson), a grifter trying to make his way as a tour guide on the Amazon and not lose everything to the local business man. The pair of them make for a genuinely fun pairing, with Lily trying to push societal boundaries while Frank just wants to life his life and will good-naturedly prod her about her passions. Along for the journey is Lily’s brother MacGregor (Whitehall), a foppish type who is entirely out of his element but provides a bit of heart.
On a side note, a really like that MacGregor is an openly gay character whose sexuality has made him an outcast from a narrow minded society. Nice representation for Disney. But we also see that any outward discussion of this character element is limited to one bottle scene that can be easily snipped for some markets. We see you, Disney.
The barrage of threats keeps things moving along nicely. Jesse Plemons is making a good living playing excellent villains, and hamming it up as a German aristocrat piloting a U-Boat up the river is perfect for him. Aguirre (Ramírez) and his undead band of conquistadors are also excellent, being cursed with different aspects of the jungle. The dude made from bees and honey is especially cool.
What makes this movie feel like a slog is the same thing that holds down most action and adventure movies these days. Everything just take far too long. There’s no one action sequence in this movie that doesn’t eventually feel like it’s going through the motions. Every scene can be chopped down to be more concise. There’s no point doing or saying anything in this movie unless you’re going to do it three times. Movies don’t all have to be more than 2 hours.
It’s also weirdly similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, another Disneyland attraction based movie. From the monster designs to the character archetypes to the ‘cursed object’ story to the major plot points…this is Pirates with a Jungle overlay. You’re fun…but we see you.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN
DISNEYLAND RIDE MOVIE RANKINGS
Yeah, it’s a good time. It doesn’t have that lighting in a bottle quality of Pirates, but it’s a great spiritual successor. We also love the poster set of the main characters trying to upstage each other.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- Jungle Cruise
- Tower of Terror
- The Country Bears
- The Haunted Mansion
- Mission to Mars