Today, we have two films that share the common element of Emily Blunt leading the cast. One is the horror/thriller A Quiet Place Part 2, and the other is the fantasy/adventure, Jungle Cruise.
A Quiet Place Part 2 (Video on Demand) – The major success of the first film was predicated on how Director John Krasinski actually played on silence and fear of the unknown, to turn his film into a suspense mini-masterpiece. The monsters when they showed up were great too, but they didn’t outright carry the film as we expect monster flicks to do. Given that, we can’t exactly expect him to rely on the same tropes to bring this Part 2 to life. And he doesn’t! Just to change the pace, there’s more of utilizing sound and dialogue; and a daring first part that works as a prequel to the first film. We’re treated to the events that led to that impressive beginning of Part 1, and it nicely sets the tone for what follows, as this Part 2 has the Abbotts dealing with neighbors – both friendly and not, and the children Regan and Marcus come into their own as saviors of their brave new world.
In fact, it’s this really exciting development that makes this 90-minute film a true thrill ride and make us excited about Part 3 – a rare feat if you ask me, and kudos to Krasinski for pulling this off. If there will be something we’ll eventually be impressed with, it’s the trusting in the kids Regan and Marcus to carry this film into new territory. It doesn’t come outright but evolves with precision so we aren’t even aware it’s happening until we’re into the last twenty minutes of the film. Putting his cast into all forms of danger has never been the issue with Krasinski in this now certified film franchise, and on that count this outing provides in a good way. It could have been easy to just put Evelyn (Emily Blunt) in the center of this second installment, but that would have been expected and too obvious. This is a Part 2 that works, with an ending that correctly places us on edge – yet again!
Jungle Cruise (Disney+ or in Theaters) In the Disney tradition of turning their iconic amusement park rides into full feature film franchises, we finally have the first installment of Jungle Cruise. It’s not as inspired as Pirates of the Caribbean (which has had more installments than perhaps necessary); but it is thankfully far better than Haunted Mansion (does anyone even remember this Eddie Murphy-led disaster?). What Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan and The Shallows) and the screenwriters basically do is take a host of references to turn this film outing into a mishmash of most everything that has worked in the past as adventure thrillers mixed with fantasy. Here’s a nod to the Indiana Jones franchise, then The Mummy, and we get snippets of The African Queen, Romancing the Stone, and even Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God – but all made light and airy.
What unfortunately doesn’t spark is the all-important on-screen chemistry between Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. They’re fine when introduced early on, and doing their own scenes; but when they finally meet up to embark on the river cruise, you’re waiting for something to gel and it never combusts. Plus we have in this film what could be one of the first ‘out’ gay characters in a Disney film, but other than using the brother of Emily’s lead character as the butt of some lowbrow humor, nothing is really made of the character. The special effects are lavish, and the set scenes with their brisk pacing make up for this lack of chemistry between Blunt and Johnson. And is it just me, or does even the CGI of the larger jungle animals look fake? There’s promise in the support cast of Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti and Edgar Ramirez – but only Plemons has the right idea to take it over the top.