The Stream: The plot doesn’t make much sense and takes too long to get going
The Big Screen: Cool special effects and nice chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt
The Final Bill: An adventure film that’s entertaining even if it’s not very memorable– Trip Fontaine
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: Michael Green(screenplay by), Glenn Ficarra(screenplay by), John Requa(screenplay by)
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramírez
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Runtime: 2 hours
Production Companies: Davis Entertainment, Flynn Picture Company, Seven Bucks Productions
Platform: Released in theaters July 30, 2021
Bon voyage, Streamers! Another weekend, another option from that media conglomerate Disney! The latest adaptation of Disneyland ride into a big budget movie is Jungle Cruise, premiering in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Disney had great success with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which was maybe the first film adaptation of a theme park ride; and it was buoyed by spectacular effects including the daffy, virtuosic performance from Johnny Depp. Why not try again, right? In a sense, it would seem like a movie based on a theme park ride would need an over-the-top hook like a Depp performance to make it work, but Jungle Cruise has The Rock and Mary Poppins 2.0, so… Anyway, here’s how Jungle Cruise fared in its waters.
I’ve never been on the Jungle Cruise ride, so I have no idea if there is a storyline there. I’m going to assume there is not, so the screenwriters had to develop a plot to get the characters on an boat in the jungle and stuff happening. The basics of the plot are that Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt), a brilliant and adventurous scientist ignored in the science community because she is a woman in the early 20th century, sets out to find an elusive tree with healing powers in the heart of the Amazon. Reluctantly accompanied by her younger brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall), Lily determined with her wits and an ancient artifact believes she can locate the tree and survive the foray into the jungle. Lily and McGregor engage the services of a riverboat man, Frank (Johnson), who has secrets of his own, to get them deep into the jungle. All the while, mysterious strangers and nefarious villain lurk in the recesses of the jungle threatening to derail Lily’s quest. Hijinks, puns, and CGI ensue.
Look, the story is ridiculous, but it’s a Disney movie. It reminds me of the quest to harness Vibranium from Blank Panther. Everything is so broad and vaguely sketched. The villains are evil for evil-sake – there’s no definable motivation or characteristic, except that they are bad guys. It does take too long for the Lily, McGregor and Frank to get on the river and on with their quest. I can see a viewer getting a little bored about 20 minutes in. The movie does pick up when some cool special effects show up and inject some energy into the story. Once you get to that point, it should be smooth sailing to the end.
On the positive side, Johnson and Blunt are a good big screen pair. They have good chemistry, even if the relationship is ridiculous. Blunt has that easy charm she carries in every role. She’s believable as a plucky and headstrong scientist. It’s easy to root for her. Johnson has charisma for days. Even though he is saddled with some groan-inducing one-liners and puns, he sells them the best he can and maintains his cool. I’ll also shout out Jack Whitehall. He does a great job of keeping up with his superstar co-stars and even steals a scene or two. While I think the CGI is great, it overpowers anything from Edgar Ramirez and what’s worse is that is steals from Pirates of the Caribbean without adding anything special. Nevertheless, the production design and magnificent set pieces are a great reason to see this movie.
Jungle Cruise is a fun, summer Disney popcorn flick. It has issues with its plot and pacing early on, but it gains steam as it sails along. Blunt and Johnson do a great job of keeping the movie light and entertaining. Even though the story is ridiculous, you at least root for the characters and can get lost in the special effects, sets and costumes. I wouldn’t run out to see Jungle Cruise, but a Saturday matinee with a bowl of popcorn, especially with the family, could be fun.