I don’t think I’ve seen such an obviously Disney movie in a long while. Even Cruella, though steeped in established characters, departed from the expected. But from the outset of this flick it’s clear we’re in the brand that has conquered the world. In part, that made the opening a bit weak and frustrating as it was utterly predictable and far too managed. It didn’t help that the overall sense is that of The Mummy (1999) meets Pirates of the Caribbean, even down to some of the relationships and scenes (intentional or not).
On the up side, Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place: Part II) and Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice) are well paired and know how to get the best out of each other. Basically, you know what will be happening but they do it at a very high caliber. But, in the end, you get another ride made into a movie…if you love Disney and their very defined brand and approach, this is a movie for you. If you have any doubt about what you’re in for, watching Jesse Plemons (Judas and the Black Messiah) and Paul Giamatti (Gunpowder Milkshake) tear up the screen in cartoon-like glee should set you straight.
Which isn’t to say the flick isn’t fun, it is. And, to be honest, there are one or two notable departures from the Disney brand around Jack Whitehall’s (Good Omens) character that were both funny and surprising. (Of course, nothing comes of it all, which is very much on brand.) There are even some clever story choices that director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter) navigates well.
But it is, through and through, a throw-back to the hey day of Disney live-action adventure. But, like watching a good magician perform their best tricks over and over, when it’s done well, you tend to forgive them. I can’t say I’d rewatch this much if at all, but I can appreciate what they achieved and I recognize that some folks will just love it. And it is a solid 4-quadrant swing for the fences.