Inspired by the Disney ride of the same name, Jungle Cruise is a true blast and the very definition of a summer adventure fantasy. If it’s escapist summer entertainment you want, Jungle Cruise is where it’s at .
It’s 1916 and forward thinking thrill seeker and scientist Dr. Lily Houghton( Emily Blunt)is coming up against the sexism of the era in London . Lily is determined to find the Tears of the Moon, which according to legend is a tree with petals that can cure any illness or lift any curse . She wants to do this to help the War Effort and for the good of mankind . After daringly acquiring an arrowhead which holds the key to what she seeks , she hightails to South America with her reluctant brother MacGregor(Jack Whitehall), who isn’t exactly cut out for rigorous travel but out of loyalty to his sister tags along. It’s here they encounter river cruise specialist Frank( Dwayne Johnson), who makes money by taking visitors along the Amazon in his rickety but effective steamboat. Frank is an uncouth, wily skipper who is nonetheless not a bad man but rather a lovable rogue who knows his way along the river, can spew cheesy one liners/puns at rapid speed and how to give a good time to those visiting. After initial hesitation which is changed once he sees the arrowhead, Frank agrees to take Lily and MacGregor down the river. Relations don’t start out great between Lily and Frank owing to many factors. Over time, the initial hostility between Lily and Frank begins to thaw as they along with the foppish MacGregor brave the many dangers of the jungle. On their trail is the deranged German Prince Joachim(Jesse Plemons), who wants to find the tree for his own agenda and will do anything to get it. But Frank isn’t what he seems and Lily believes he might be hiding something just as it becomes apparent that the jungle has its own ways to defend and mystical at that, as evidenced by the cursed conquistadors who originally found the tree are now part of the jungle following a curse being put on them . It’s now a race against time to find before it falls into the wrong hands and is used as a weapon for evil
Jaume Collet-Serra, who I know from directing horror films and thrillers , gets the right tone of the piece as light and thrilling entertainment from the get go. He understands what the film is going for and helps deliver the necessary thrills of an fantasy/adventure flick. There are numerous callbacks to classic adventure movies tinged with fantasy like Raiders of the Lost Ark and adventure yarns from the 30’s and 40’s. While it doesn’t quite reach those heights, Disney’s Jungle Cruise is a rollicking good time that’ll leave you with a smile on your face. There’s both adventure and slapstick action here, with many of the pursuit scenes blending the two things with wonderful panache. And I did appreciate how the movie wasn’t afraid to throw in a couple of curveballs at various points to surprise the audience My main gripes with the film are the running time and sometimes the CGI gets a bit overbearing. The film could have been a tad shorter and still been great, but it sadly does go on a bit longer than it needs to. I feel with a swift bit of editing it would have benefited Jungle Cruise. Visually , Jungle Cruise does impress in the setting and look. I just found that it went too far with the CGI when it could have toned it down as there are passages where it is too much for the eyes to handle. When it is brought back in however, it works very well at creating a magical ride and world to enjoy. James Newton Howard is on score duties with a rousing musical sense that percolates throughout Jungle Cruise and envelops it in a jaunty air that’s hard to resist
Jungle Cruise boasts a fine cast, with the three principals of Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall standing out. Dwayne Johnson, with his huge physique, tongue in cheek knowingness and action man persona, is ideal casting here. The part of Frank is someone who is quite mysterious and underhand but so disarming and hard not to be won over by. And all of this is played with panache by Dwayne Johnson. Also on amazing form is the always talented and watchable Emily Blunt as what can be described as an effective female take on Indiana Jones. Blunt exhibits a tough, scrappy aura but possesses a warmth , intelligence and dangerous curiosity that’s most winning as a woman who isn’t going to be restricted by society’s narrow view of women. Like Johnson, Blunt really plays to the humour and the physicality of the piece and it makes for fine, bristling chemistry . Now I’ve seen many describe the main relationship at the centre of Jungle Cruise a double act, but I think many have missed that Jack Whitehall is just as important a part. Usually I’m not a fan of him as a comedian, but strangely enough I found him very agreeable here. Portraying Lily’s dandy of a brother who is nonetheless very loyal, he amusingly nails the snotty attitude that melts into something spirited and adventurous. Jesse Plemons hams it up spectacularly as the obsessed, deranged villain who has a lot of humour to him . A lot of this is down to the delivery of Plemons who is obviously having a completely, riotous ball with this part of main bad guy . Édgar Ramírez has the right mystique and imposing presence for the role of cursed who is desperately trying to free himself from the state of being undead And Paul Giamatti is a hoot in his small role as the gold toothed harbourmaster who has numerous run ins with Frank.
A rollicking good time that’s light and what I’d define as a crowd pleaser in the best sense of those words(apart from a few niggles), Jungle Cruise is a delight to be had at the movies and excellent viewing for the summer cinema time.