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Jungle Cruise
(2021)
Album Cover Art
Composed and Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Jon Kull
Philip Klein
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LABEL & RELEASE DATE
Walt Disney Records
(July 30th, 2021)
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ALBUM AVAILABILITY
Commercial digital release only, with high resolution options.
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AWARDS
None.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you can't resist James Newton Howard's full range of skittish comedy, sincere drama, breakneck adventure, romantic teasing, and flowing fantasy all inhabiting one whirlwind of a score.

Avoid it... if you found this score's closest sibling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, to be thematically overcomplicated and desire simpler narrative development for your ear candy.
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EDITORIAL REVIEW
FILMTRACKS TRAFFIC RANK: #2,006
WRITTEN 9/1/21
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Howard
Howard
Jungle Cruise: (James Newton Howard) Anyone who has braved the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disneyland through the decades is well aware that it's a relative yawn-fest if not for the eye-rolling, pithy commentary by each boat's guide, the animatronics and other special effects of the ride appealing mostly to little ones. As far back as the early 2000's, Disney saw a feature film as a way to revitalize the attraction, and after more than a decade of toil and pandemic delays, 2021's Jungle Cruise is the result. The film literally translates the whole concept of the ride onto screen in its opening parts, 1916 boat guide Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson delivering expectedly amusing banter while coordinating with local tribal actors to excite affluent guests on his Brazilian steam-driven river boat. His character has a much more complicated backstory, however, one illuminated when Emily Blunt's headstrong botanist from London, along with her helpless brother, arrive in the Amazon in search of a mystical tree of life. The adventure story involves 16th Century conquistadors, a German prince in a U-boat, and a range of other human and animal characters both dead and alive. The haphazard plot relies heavily upon the chemistry between the two leads, Frank and Lily inevitably destined for romantic complications. Their triumph in the plot and in the film's earnings led Disney to quickly announce a sequel for the duo and the principal crew. With no substantial source song applications, Jungle Cruise required more than two hours of music from Disney veteran composer James Newton Howard, who had the fortune of recording the immense score just prior to the pandemic lockdowns of 2020. The 99-member orchestral ensemble, joined by a 40-voice choir, was the last to record at Sony's stage prior to the restrictions, though Howard continued to work on specialty overlays thereafter. The scope of his score is exactly as one would expect, with Brazilian percussion, panpipes, acoustic guitar, and tasteful synthetic effects combining with the main performing groups to yield a modern take on a vintage swashbuckling sound. Had the soundtrack contented itself with that formula, Jungle Cruise could have been destined for greatness. Sadly, a Disney executive stepped in.

The idea of having the heavy metal band Metallica contribute music to a Disney film had been bantered about for many years, and Disney production president Sean Bailey felt that Jungle Cruise was the right place to incorporate them. When you look at the storyline and the personality of the film score, this decision doesn't make any sense, of course, but Howard, a former rock arranger and producer in his day, was the right man to attempt the adaptation of Metallica into the soundtrack. For their part, the band (in this case, the endeavor led by drummer Lars Ulrich) was thrilled to be working with Howard and trusted his approach to reworking their song, "Nothing Else Matters," into an instrumental version for use as one of the score's themes. Astonishingly, Howard succeeded brilliantly in applying the melody from the song to the two conquistador flashback sequences in the film, the former scene and first two minutes of the latter scene applying the song on acoustic guitar and choir with spectacular effect. Unfortunately, the later scene of the conquistadors murdering members of a Brazilian tribe in their effort to obtain an artifact devolves into a slow-motion music video for which the score adds roaring percussion and electric guitars from members of the band, and the overbearing, modern coolness of the sound could not be more inappropriate for the setting, time period, and, most importantly, emotional feel of the scene. In essence, the Metallica presence in this scene makes the slaughtering of tribesmen and women sound cool, and it's a highly disturbing and disqualifying scene as a result. This two minutes of score overshadows almost everything else provided by Howard for Jungle Cruise, diminishing all his other achievements due to a single, terrible spotting decision. That said, if you subtract the latter half of that second "Nothing Else Matters" flashback cue, the rest of the score, including Howard's more low-key adaptations of that same song, is compositionally sophisticated and remarkably entertaining. In general, the composer's approach to Jungle Cruise mimics both his magnificent fantasy mode and children's adventure mode together with a dash of romance. The exuberance conveyed in much of the score is what sets it apart from the work's natural siblings in Howard's career. It's clear that the intent here was to whip up a rousing dose of fun.

While some listeners may prefer the more heavy-handed fantasy personality of Howard's past, Jungle Cruise most closely follows the rubric of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them scores, the full range of skittish comedy, sincere drama, breakneck adventure, romantic teasing, and flowing fantasy all inhabiting a whirlwind of a score. Listeners inclined to follow the development of themes are required to work a little harder to uncover Howard's narrative development, but his ideas typically end up in a good place by the end of the story. Whereas the totally robust orchestral presence of this score shines well beyond Howard's just previous Raya and the Last Dragon, some of the score's highlights come with the application of the percussion, guitars, and pan pipes. There is just enough exotic flavor to suffice without becoming distracting. More intriguing is a potential bleed-through of temp track influences on cues of singular motific development, with hints of everything from John Williams' desert chase from Raiders of the Lost Ark's ("The Rapids") to Patrick Doyle's train material from Murder on the Orient Express ("I Built a Boat") and a bevy of early, playful music for Lily that ironically sounds perfect for Mary Poppins mischief. (One could argue that the chipper main theme of the picture would be a perfect match for a Mary Poppins song melody.) The sneaking animal-related music wraps back to the equivalent cues in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. All of this material is performed and mixed extremely well, speaking to the benefits of recording full ensembles in the same room. For film score collectors disappointed by the lack of really well-balanced and nuanced orchestral recordings during the pandemic lockdowns, Jungle Cruise is a resounding treat in its ambient scope. Howard's purpose was to resurrect the high-flying orchestral spirit of yesteryear to match the film's vintage charm, confessing, "It has a wonderful retro feel, like an adventure movie from the 1940s... it was immensely gratifying." He responded by composing three dominant themes, three secondary themes, and three motifs closely targeted at specific scenes or minor concepts. The most interesting aspect of his thematic choices was the establishment of separate but similar themes for the leads, Frank and Lily, before blending them into one common identity for their shared goals and exploits.

Howard arranged a fantastic "Jungle Cruise Suite" for the end credits that rotates through eight of the film's themes and motifs, and this cue opens the album. (There do seem to be some differences between the credits edit and the album's version.) The primary franchise theme for Jungle Cruise is a jaunty, march-like series of three-note phrases heard first at 0:46 and 1:14 into "Jungle Cruise Suite" before a brassy rendition takes center stage at 3:14. On screen, the theme serves as the main title announcement on brass at 0:08 into "A Steamer to Brazil" before panpipes and others take the idea for the remainder of the scene. The theme, while rooted in Frank's cruises, becomes a general representation of heroics and escape by the exuberant chasing at 0:46 into "Market Chase" and the all-out action at 0:14 into "Sub Attack." The latter cue offers the theme at 1:47 for the victorious, explosive finale to the scene. The idea takes a propulsive but hopeful and lighter tone at 1:24 into "I Built a Boat," adapting to a moment of brief glee once back in action at 2:21 into "Conquistadors Arrive." The theme's figures inform later action in "One Last Cruise" and shift to a sense of longing and survival by 1:32 into "I Want You to Rest Now," a solo oboe passage for the theme especially effective. By Frank's revival, the idea returns to stately horns at 2:46 into that cue, and the full ensemble resolves it at 3:05. In the epilogue, the theme returns in its stately form but reprises its original playful, panpipe personality for Frank's driving, this time in a car instead of a boat. Some listeners may assume that Frank's own theme, which is often intertwined with the main theme for the concept, is itself the movie's primary identity. But it does serve to underline the character's wild antics rather than the main theme, which instead is focused more on Frank's perceived sophisticated sense of coolness. Frank's theme is heard at 0:10 and 1:33 into "Jungle Cruise Suite," though a solo horn performance at 7:31 sets the stage for several subsequent reprises on that instrument to represent the character's wish to escape his lifestyle. The theme extends directly out of the score's secondary adventure theme at 0:43 into "Jungle Cruise" and is caught up in frenzied chasing at 0:34 and 1:10 into "Market Chase" before taking a big, victorious march-like form at 2:34. The theme smartly loses footing in fragments during "The Rapids" but starts reasserting itself by the background trumpet action at 1:19 into "The Tree Fight."


Ratings Icon
VIEWER RATINGS
144 TOTAL VOTES
Average: 3.7 Stars
***** 40 5 Stars
**** 50 4 Stars
*** 32 3 Stars
** 15 2 Stars
* 7 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
TRACK LISTINGS
Total Time: 72:41
• 1. Jungle Cruise Suite (8:20)
• 2. Nothing Else Matters - Jungle Cruise Version, Part 1* (1:26)
• 3. Breaking Into the Archives (4:02)
• 4. Stop Her! (2:33)
• 5. A Steamer to Brazil (1:56)
• 6. Jungle Cruise (1:53)
• 7. Nilo (1:12)
• 8. Frank Breaks In (1:18)
• 9. Preparing to Set Sail (2:53)
• 10. Market Chase (2:45)
• 11. Sub Attack (2:14)
• 12. Encantado (1:18)
• 13. The Rapids (3:42)
• 14. Lily Snoops (2:29)
• 15. Trader Sam (1:24)
• 16. The Tree Fight (5:56)
• 17. Lily Finds Frank (1:17)
• 18. Joachim and the Bees (1:10)
• 19. Nothing Else Matters - Jungle Cruise Version, Part 2* (4:29)
• 20. I Built a Boat (2:00)
• 21. La Luna Rota (1:23)
• 22. Underwater Puzzle (4:35)
• 23. Petal Negotiations (3:43)
• 24. Conquistadors Arrive (2:38)
• 25. One Last Cruise (1:19)
• 26. I Want You to Rest Now (3:46)
• 27. Absolutely Exhausting (1:00)
* written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, adapted by James Newton Howard

Notes Icon
NOTES AND QUOTES
There exists no official packaging for this album.
Copyright © 2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the filmtracks.com site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Jungle Cruise are Copyright © 2021, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/1/21 (and not updated significantly since).
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