Chippewa Falls, WI

Disney’s ‘Jungle Cruise’ Brings Back Memories of Indiana Jones

Walter Rhein
Image by Walter Rhein

There’s nothing better on a sweltering summer day than to slip into an air-conditioned movie theater and watch a film designed to ignite your imagination. As a young boy in 1981, the film that had a major impact on me was Raiders of the Lost Ark. That blockbuster starts with an unforgettable pursuit of a golden idol in an ancient temple in the jungles of Peru.

As an adult, I moved to Peru in 2001 and lived there for 10 years. I never quite had the same adventures as Indy, but living in that country was the seminal experience of my life.

People often dismiss summer blockbusters as unimportant. However, I sometimes wonder if I would have had the courage to live abroad had it not been for the summer of 1981 when I spent every afternoon pretending I was a renowned archaeologist exploring an exotic jungle.

Disney’s Jungle Cruise is a film in a similar vein. It perhaps has a greater emphasis on silliness but there are a few scenes that might scare very young children. For the most part, it is a wise cracking adventure again set in the Amazon jungles.

When you go to the movies, this is the kind of thing you want to see. It’s important to have beautiful locations and rousing action. Having actually been to the Amazon myself, I recognize that there’s a power to that unconquered frontier that absolutely translates to the silver screen. As far as I’m concerned, the images of the Amazon were worth the price of admission, everything else was just a bonus.

Jungle Cruise manages to leverage childhood nostalgia in a number of ways. The famous ride at the Magic Kingdom has gone from family favorite to a tedious retelling of prehistoric dad jokes. Yes, ‘the back side of water’ quip makes an appearance in Jungle Cruise, but the filmmakers are shrewd enough to put these jokes in their proper context.

The fun of telling a dad joke is that it irritates everyone but the one who is telling the joke. The filmmakers emphasize this reality in Jungle Cruise, and river boat skipper Frank, played by Dwayne Johnson, delivers mostly new material in a tired deadpan that puts the focus not on the jokes, but the reaction.

It works.

Emily Blunt stars as the spunky explorer Lily Houghton, a character that is rightfully fed up with the blatant sexism of the Royal Society. Watch for a scene at the end of the film when, during a lecture that features a litany of fantastic claims, the only thing the stodgy members of the Royal Society can’t believe is that there are cultures in the Amazon where women are in charge.

Jungle Cruise could be described as a cross between The American Queen and The Pirates of the Caribbean. About halfway through the film, a mystical element starts to take shape which is in line with the fantastical turns found in the Indiana Jones films.

The bottom line is that this is a great popcorn movie. The kids will love it and the parents will be entertained. It’s also a positive film with good interplay between the two main characters. You might not think that this is a movie that will have much of an influence on your life, but you might be surprised. If your kids end up exploring the Amazon as young adults, you might be able to trace the roots of inspiration back to Jungle Cruise.

Jungle Cruise is playing now at Micon Cinema in Chippewa Falls.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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