Jungle Cruise, despite its more-than-capable leads and its much-vaunted attention to detail and verisimilitude, never feels transporting in the way that even mediocre blockbusters were once able to muster. It’s less an expedition than a simulation, a dispatch from a wild yet oddly pristine world where seeing is never close to believing.
Old grabs you right away, starts losing you at the half-hour mark, pulls you back in with some agreeably bonkers set-pieces, drags you through a tedious closing stretch and finally leaves you in an oddly charitable mood: Say, that wasn’t so bad, except when it was terrible.
[The] story never fully comes into focus. You catch glimpses of it in between the busy, mechanical lurchings of the plot, in the swirling movement of a camera pan and the ardent commitment of the actors.
Blue Bayou’s manipulations can be infuriating, but at its best, it makes you feel the director’s own rage against a punishingly unjust system; impressively, Chon refuses to soft-pedal the violence inherent in the act of tearing a family asunder.
For two hours it places Bourdain’s voice alongside the voices of those who knew him, as if they were still able to converse on the same spiritual plane. There’s beauty and solace in that illusion, even if the movie can’t — and maybe shouldn’t — begin to answer the unbearably sad question that haunts every frame.
The movie is just a big, empty declaration of corporate dominance, a whirling CGI tornado that — like a much stupider Tasmanian Devil — ingests, barely processes and then promptly regurgitates everything in its path. It’s Upchuck Jones.
It’s hard not to feel stirred, even moved, by the sheer improbable fact of this picture’s existence: Moment by moment, you’re held by its loony flights of lyricism and gorgeous images (shot by Caroline Champetier), and by the mix of sincerity, irony and Sondheimian dissonance that animates every sung-through line.
The result is a ride that feels smooth and bumpy in all the right places. You are pulled along by the seductive glide of Soderbergh’s filmmaking, by the jazzy riffs of David Holmes’ score and the suavity of the camerawork, only to be jolted into high alertness by the nasty, bloody surprises in Solomon’s script.
The script doesn’t reincarnate so much as it recycles, drawing freely on the nested realities of “Inception,” the free-your-mind metaphysics of “The Matrix” and the amnesiac-assassin revelations of the Jason Bourne movies. Maybe watch one of those tonight instead.
If perception has its limitations, this deeply sobering, stimulating film suggests, that may be another way of saying that it is fundamentally limitless. There is so much — too much — to see here, and no end of vantages from which to see it.
Chaves is a solid craftsman with a weakness for easy jolts, but also a gift for filling the frame with strategically unnerving pools of light and shadow; he can turn even a daylit room into something ominous and suggestive.
The rhythms are uneven, the patterns of meaning often elusive. But they coalesce into a moving glimpse of lives lived and artistic legacies forged in the shadow — and sometimes the harsh, glaring light — of momentous historical change.
While its surface pleasures are dazzling — if a bit protracted, at well north of two hours — it finally suggests that memorable screen villainy and complex inner humanity may be forced into a kind of stalemate, at least when there’s a corporate-branded intellectual property involved.
To call this movie assertive would be an understatement; to describe it as small would be a lie. At nearly two-and-a-half hours and with a terrific ensemble of actors singing, rapping, dancing and practically bursting out of the frame, In the Heights is a brash and invigorating entertainment, a movie of tender, delicate moments that nonetheless revels unabashedly in its own size and scale.