I Have Lost Something
This is more of a discussion than a review or recommendation.
Consequently, I will make no effort whatsoever to avoid spoilers.
Busy weekend for Dwayne Johnson. He had Jungle Cruise drop to standard subscriber tier on Disney Plus and Red Notice launch on Netflix.
First up, Jungle Cruise.
Whether or not you’ve already seen this movie, you’ve already seen this movie. It’s Brenden Frasier’s version of the Mummy from twenty years ago. For that matter, it’s also Romancing the Stone from forty years ago (ouch).
Woman Adventurer, who has no time for love, goes adventuring in some far-off exotic locale to find the Magic MacGuffin of Whatever. There she meets Handsome Male Guide whom she finds attractive but instantly establishes an antagonistic relationship with, but eventually, she falls hard for him. There are a variety of bad guys in competition with her for the Magic MacGuffin of Whatever. At the end, the bad guys are defeated and the MMW is found, but Woman Adventurer realizes that what she wanted all along was to find the love of her life. Which, of course, she did with Handsome Male Guide.
You already figured all of that from just watching the trailer.
“When Walt decided to get into the amusement park business one of the things, he felt a need to incorporate was the True Life Adventures. On Disneyland’s opening day, one of the few rides that were actually operating was the Jungle Cruise. Admittedly, in rather a different form than it is today.
At first, the ride was played straight. It was a trip deep into the jungle. Unknown perils were ahead, with beasts and natives awaiting the guests. The Skipper of the boat being the guide and lead actor. The Skipper is the one part of the ride that has stayed more or less the same; the success or failure of the individual ride is very much dependent upon his performance. John Lasseter used to be a Skipper when he worked at Disneyland.
The Jungle Cruise was the first ride to incorporate animatronics, (largely because live animals would be at best unreliable performers and at worst an active menace to the guests). Gradually comedy began to filter its way into the ride and its more iconic scenes began to be added.”
The filmmakers were polite enough to front-load all of the ride gags and fan service. I did appreciate that the key to the MMW was found by Doctor Falls’ expedition. Yeah, I remembered the joke from the ride.
“To your right, you will see the famous Schweitzer Falls, named after Doctor Albert Falls.”
The rest were all the puns the Skippers have always told over the years, except the Rock’s passengers were completely stone-faced and one girl kept begging him to stop. The native attack was totally fake as they were in on the con that Skipper Frank was pulling on his tourists, (hardly a new trope but I could practically hear the filmmakers breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for this brilliant innovation no one had ever seen before unless you saw F Troop).
The action scenes were good. I was only mildly annoyed that Trader Sam is now a woman (banished from the ride’s canon but sure as hell not from the gift shop). That was one bit of unwanted Woke.
Another slathering of Progressive Pablum was Woman Adventurer’s Wastrel Brother confessing to the Skipper that he would never get married because, (*barrel-chested sigh*), he could never marry the one he truly loves. Wastrel Brother being gay added nothing to the plot and didn’t move the story forward at all. This character trait was never mentioned again and it was clearly shoehorned in at the insistence of some Disney exec. And forgive me for stating the fucking obvious but in 1916, he damn well would have married a woman. Probably a strappingly large spinster with an unusually close relationship with her lady’s maid, they would have had a long, happy, respectful, and childfree marriage.
All the actors gave good performances. Emily Blunt turned in her typically strong, yet vulnerable independent woman trope. The Rock played the Rock. Surprise kudos to Jesse Plemons for the comedic but still menacing Prince Joachim. Good work Jesse, it isn’t easy to do both at the same time.
I liked the twist of the Handsome Male Guide being one of the cursed conquistadors. He had been trapped on the Amazon unable to leave sight of the river for 400 years. They played fair with that one. There was a stream of hints peppered here and there throughout the movie. Skipper Frank spoke Portuguese in town but Spanish in private. The other cursed conquistadors were pissed as hell at a guy named, “Franchesco.” The Rock’s pet Jaguar had the peculiar name of Proxima (Next in Spanish). Apparently, he gave all of his Jaguars the same name. The payoff was set up and the setup was paid off. I appreciated the craft.
However, I strongly suspect that in the original script once Woman Adventurer had the MMW she used it to release the soul of Skipper Frank. It would have been a better and more poignant finale. Which isn’t allowed in something as aggressively mediocre as a Disney movie. Consequently, the MMW lifts the Rock’s curse and she immediately acquires a second MMW even though there had only been one in the first place.
That way she gets to have everything.
Truth be said, it doesn’t matter because this was never going to be anything better than an “okay movie.” Not great, not terrible, just okay.
The problem I had with it was the same problem that I had with the next movie. My hackles were raised during the whole film, and I had to repeatedly fight them down. I’ll tell you why later.
Next up, Red Notice.
My aforementioned hackles were up and bristling during this whole flick and I didn’t even try to fight them down. This one starred Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and Gal Gadot.
Ryan Reynolds is playing Ryan Reynolds; he’s only got the one character, as does the Rock and Gal Gadot. Anyway, Reynolds is the former Greatest Thief in the World but has recently been demoted to Number Two by the Bishop (Gal Gadot). He wants his rank back. He will do that by getting the Third Egg of Cleopatra (there are three MacGuffins and they are art treasures by the name of the Eggs of Cleopatra). The Rock is a cop who has been accused of stealing the first of these eggs and teams up with Reynolds to try and clear his name.
The fundamental problem with this movie (which was clearly and obviously) never meant to be taken seriously was Gal Gadot’s character who was the Bestest Thief Evah!
No matter where Reynolds and Rock went, she always beat them there. She was constantly one step ahead of them with only the thinnest fig leaf of an explanation as to how she got there. She outwitted them at every turn without trying at all. The most ludicrous scene in the whole film was when skinny as a rail, 130-pound Gal Gadot beats up Reynolds and the freaking Rock at the same time!
She looked like the worst possible feminist, social justice Mary Sue. The rules of the universe were constantly rewriting themselves, just to make her look more brilliant and the men more dumb and incompetent.
And then at the end, it turned out there was a reason for all of it.
The Rock was in on it with her from the very start.
The reason Gadot beat them everywhere they went was because the Rock told her where they were going. Gadot was only able to beat him up because he was taking a dive, and surreptitiously sabotaging Reynold’s fight with her at the same time.
She had never been a Mary Sue. It had all been a trick.
Here is the sad part for me. There was a time I could have enjoyed either of these movies without constantly having to sniff the wind for the sour whiff of Woke.
If Red Notice had been released in 1995 and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dennis Leary, and Sandra Bullock, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have fond memories of it and sadly reflect on how they don’t make movies like that anymore.
The problem is simple enough, I can’t enjoy hyperbole anymore. These films were meant to be over the top and ALL of the characters were supposed to be larger than life, to include the women. But thanks to a ton of films like the Last Jedi that played Mary Sue straight I can’t watch something that was always meant to be dumb fun without constantly examining it for signs of corruption.
I honestly think I’ve lost something.