Disney doth dabble in the IPs once more and pulls out the lesser exploited aspect of their theme park rides. If it worked for Pirates of the Caribbean, it can work for Jungle Cruise (to an extent). After all, Jungle Cruise doesn’t have much of a large narrative to the ride that it’s ripe for a more original adventure.
It’s also a safe bet of a blockbuster. Jungle adventures, if given enough love and care, can be solid summer entertainment. Though it does borrow a lot from past films of this genre, it does make a pleasing picture with such goals of treasure and comradery.
Head for the River
Set during the early 1900s, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) is a bold and brash scientist aiming to prove herself as an adventurer. So when an adventure society refuses her request to find the elusive Tree of Life, she takes to lockpicking and sneaking her way into getting what she needs.
Teaming up with her cautiously meek brother McGregor (Jack Whitehall), she swipes a mysterious arrowhead and sets off for the jungle. Traversing this wild landscape of dangerous animals and mysterious tribes will require a boat and a skipper. Lily is determined but not too stupid enough to journey without someone who knows the land.
Who she ends up with is the swindling Captain Frank (Dwayne Johnson). He uses his rickety boat for hosting scammy tours of the jungle. He’s behind on paying off his engine and is just as bad at handling money as he is at cracking jokes. His play on words is consistent enough to make tourists wretch.
Aristocrats and Zombies
Lily is not the only person seeking the Tree of Life. Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) is a German aristocrat is hoping to find this tree to better aid Germany in World War I. He’s so serious about finding this mystical plant that he’s brought his submarine along to fire torpedoes at our heroes.
Also seeking the tree is the undead mercenary Aguirre (Édgar Ramírez), doomed to living by the sea for angering a local tribe. If he acquires a petal from the tree, he can lift the curse that has turned himself and his men into undead creatures of the snakes, mud, and bees.
An Adventure Spirit
In the tradition of Indiana Jones and like-minded movies, Jungle Cruise brings the excitement expected with treasure hunting. The jungle is teeming with chaotic wildlife small as mosquitos and large as leopards. Of course, the leopard is part of Frank’s scam so you can’t put too much stock in his advice of how everything in the jungle will kill you.
The comedic back-and-forth between Johnson and Blunt works remarkably well. Johnson is already oozing with charisma and Blunt’s determination to out his intentions makes for an energetic relationship. Their many exchanges help make their obligatory romance feel far more believable in such a short time.
The boat trip is a rocky one where the trio of Lily, Frank, and McGreggor find themselves narrowly turning away from rapids. The engine will strain just long enough to mount the tension as they find clever ways of outmaneuvering torpedoes. A few good kicks get the engine going just in time.
There’s little doubt that Jungle Cruise is sure to encounter criticisms of being derivative. After all, the central story involves immortal beings seeking a magical treasure that can cure their curse. Sound familiar?
Yes, it will most likely receive a lashing of being Pirates redux or borrowing from any number of adventure flicks set in exotic locations with mystical MacGuffins. All that is fine, however, as the film strives to just be as engrossing as it can amid these genre traditions.
There are so many fun aspects to this picture that even its soggy third act can be forgiven. Consider that Paul Giamatti appears briefly in the film with a money-demanding parrot. Plemons also has his hilarious moments of arguing with bees (yes, really).
There’s also a sort of weird glee in taking the tale of Aguirre and retooling it into a supernatural fantasy. Watching this historical figure being transformed into a snake monster while his cohorts assume other elements is just wild enough to be entertaining. One particular soldier is made out of bees and honey and doesn’t seem to mind since he can eat himself.
Conclusion: Jungle Cruise
Jungle Cruise won’t tread down unfamiliar waters. The story itself is a pretty standard jungle adventure. That being said, it still manages to please in all the areas one would expect for a pleasing summer picture.
The chemistry of Johnson and Blunt is alone worth the watch. Other additions of zombie Spanish soldiers and quirky additions of Giamatti and Plemons add to the fun. As an action-adventure diversion, it’s a solid use of Disney’s theme parks to make a movie transition.
Did you see Jungle Cruise in theaters or on Disney+ Premiere Access? Was it worth the cost? How does it stack up next to F9? Let us know in the comments below.
Disney delivers a simple yet fun adventure film in the jungle with strong chemistry and a great atmosphere.
- Fun adventure atmosphere.
- Great chemistry between the leads.
- Fantastic and charming sequences.
- No real subversion of the genre.
- Slows down a bit too much in the third act.
- Simplistic allegories.