Jungle Cruise hot take: Did someone say backside of water?

October 12, 2019

 Screencap | © Disney


Grab your khaki shorts and your paddle, because this Friday Disney has released the first full trailer for the upcoming “Jungle Cruise” movie. After being in various forms of development limbo for over a decade, we’ll finally see the beloved opening day attraction brought to the big screen in July 2020.



The trailer, clocking in at just over 2 minutes, sets up the core plot points of the film: Emily Blunt is some kind of khaki-clad researcher and/or adventurer, who steals a priceless artifact that will help her find a tree with healing powers in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. In her attempts to make her way to the tree she hires the Rock, Amazon river guide and general flim-flam artist (likely with a heart of gold), to take her down the river. Adventure and jokes ensue in the form of waterfalls, magic, and almost certain doom. 


It’s clear from the start that Emily Blunt is a natural in an action film. The trailer opens with her brandishing a spear, falling out a window with a ladder, and landing on a double-decker bus full of soldiers. However, despite the physical elements, there’s something that feels uncomfortably close to her “Mary Poppins Returns” character. Maybe it’s her character’s hairstyle, or the knowing smiles she gives the camera in reaction shots, but it’s hard to shake throughout. Blunt is a great pick for a plucky adventurer who wants to help her ailing brother, but doesn’t seem to be giving it her all in these scenes. I still remain hopeful that she’s simply being undersold in favor of emphasizing the film’s plot.


Practically Perfect | Screencap © Disney


This trailer manages to cram in a good number of elements from the ride on which it’s based: shooting at hippos, natives with blow darts, and even the “backside of water.” It’s a clever nod to the source material, and it sets The Rock’s character up as a true Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper in spirit, as well as in name. On the other hand, he looks a bit...miscast. He hits all the lines, and nails the “Backside of Water” joke as well as any Disney World Skipper might, but something’s missing. 


The “Eighth Wonder of the World” joke’s roots lie in the history of the attraction. The gag works, because they’ve been doing it for so long that it’s now a core element of the attraction’s identity. The over-the-top buildup, ridiculous punchline, and constant repetition of the first two pieces over the years is the entire point: you clap if you know, and you’re left in total confusion if you don’t. In the world of the film, the Rock’s Jungle Cruise isn’t visited by repeat guests and is supposed to be sincere to the passengers. As such, the joke doesn’t land in the slightest. 


The supernatural element of this film looks wonderful, even from the small glimpse at the end of the trailer. It’s never been explicit in the ride, but has been hinted at over in WDW for decades. Hearing Blunt whisper-exclaim, “The myth IS real!” is a little too on-the-nose, but the sneak peak of the snake-wrapped, magical-knight bad guy (likely Edgar Ramirez – it’s hard to tell from the short closeup) had me on the edge of my seat. 


Why’d it have to be snakes? | Screencap © Disney


While there was no one moment in the trailer that made me feel like I had to buy a ticket right this second, I’m left cautiously optimistic overall. The whole thing has a feel very similar to the trailer for the first Pirates of the Caribbean (POTC) film.



Re-watching that trailer gives me even more high hopes for the the “Jungle Cruise” movie. The POTC trailer contains a fair amount of plot, suspense, and jokes patched together in a trailer that feels a little flat, but “Curse of the Black Pearl” was an all-out good time in its full-length version. 


Will “Jungle Cruise” be the next big Disney movie franchise? Will we get to meet the famed Dr. Albert Falls? How long will The Rock keep his shirt on in the film? Keep your eyes on the trees for hippos and your radio tuned to the AWOL airwaves for more news as it comes out!



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