Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence
Dwayne Johnson as Captain Frank “Skipper” Wolff
Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton
Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton
Édgar Ramírez as Aguirre
Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim
Paul Giamatti as Nilo Nemolato
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal — a discovery that will change the future of medicine.
I heard of Jungle Cruise in the lead up to its release, I knew that it was going to star Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and that it was based off the theme park ride of the same name in Disneyland. Initially I wasn’t that interested in it, at the very least I found an adaptation of this to be quite a strange idea since all it pretty much is just a jungle ride with not much of a plot to really adapt. However some early responses were fairly positive, and the trailer looked fun enough. So I checked it out for myself and I’m glad I watched it.
I haven’t been on the Jungle Cruise ride in quite some time so I don’t know if the movie contains many references to it. However from what I can tell, having the movie being based off the ride is just an excuse to have another adventure movie, definitely a throwback to those kinds of film. You definitely get the vibes of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, as well as National Treasure to a degree. If you enjoy those kinds of movies, then you’ll probably have a fun time with this. The plot itself is nothing unpredictable, you can tell what kind of movie you are in for, and as that I found it enjoyable. The first third is a bit slow but once the main characters are on the boat it was a smooth and fast paced ride. There are plenty of jokes throughout and most of them land. Tonally it is mostly consistently light and fun, and the movie knows what kind of film it is. At the same time, it does play around with the tone and gets surprisingly dark at points. One of the most standout yet confusing moments is a flashback sequence that has Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters playing, that makes it feel like it came out of a completely different movie. Definitely a memorable scene, but I can’t figure out whether I liked the inclusion, or whether it shouldn’t have been in it. Although the script is fairly straightforward, at times it can get a bit too convoluted. Also while it always shines whenever its following the main trio, some aspects of the story aren’t the most interesting. There are two villainous storylines, one is more relevant to the story but isn’t as interesting. The other involves Jesse Plemons and is less relevant to the story, but is a lot more fun because of his performance. The finale itself was pretty fun but a bit lacklustre when compared to the rest of the movie.
The cast were good too and they added a lot to the enjoyment of the movie. Dwayne Johnson once again plays Dwayne Johnson, however for what its worth, he is entertaining, and his familiar personality and charisma works for this film. Emily Blunt was really the star of the whole movie, she’s really good and has a lot to work with in the film. She and Johnson has good chemistry. Jack Whitehall is the third main character as Emily Blunt’s brother and while I wasn’t sure about his character when it started, he actually grows on you as the film progresses. Jesse Plemons plays one of the main villains as a German aristocrat, and he is having a ton of fun here. The character isn’t interesting or memorable, but Plemons adds so much with his fun on screen appearances to make him stand out in the movie.
Jaume Collet-Sierra being the director was one of the more interesting parts of the movie going into it. He previously made 4 Liam Neeson action movies (Unknown, Non Stop, Run All Night and The Commuter) and some horror movies (including Orphan and The Shallows). I think his work as a director added a lot to the movie. A lot of the action is fast paced, well filmed, and was fun to watch. Where the technical elements falter a little bit is the visual effects, which are a bit of a mixed bag and ranged in quality. I do think that they could’ve afforded to use more practical effects and rely less on CGI, and the CGI itself could be a little unpolished at times.
As far as Disneyland theme park rides turned into movies, it is no Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was still fun. Jungle Cruise is nothing special when compared to the type of movies it taking inspiration from, but its nonetheless entertaining for what it is and better than it had any right to be. Its directed pretty well, the cast are good, and I was enjoying the experience from beginning to end. If you go in expecting a fun adventure, then that’s what you’ll get.