"Jungle Cruise" stars Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti. Released on July 30, 2021, the film is about a scientist who teams up with a riverboat captain to search for the Tree of Life.
The film was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who also directed films such as "Orphan", "Unknown", "The Shallows", and "The Commuter". It is based on the theme park attraction of the same name by Walt Disney. Summer vacation is not complete without a relaxing cruise across the majestic seas. A cruise that's filled with games, performances, and a pool. However, this cruise, in particular, is anything but relaxing. On the bright side, the ship's captain is none other than Dwayne Johnson. Since 1997, Disney has been bringing famous attractions from its theme parks to the screen, ranging from Tower of Terror to Tomorrowland. With the exception of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, those adaptations have done little to be as popular as the rides and attractions they're based on regarding their box office and critical reception. This year, the trend continues with a film that's inspired by a riverboat ride through the dangerous jungle life. I haven't ridden the attraction myself. Then again, I still haven't been to any of the Disney theme parks yet. However, I was curious to see it in movie form primarily due to the presence of Johnson, Emily Blunt, and director Jaume Collet-Serra, who's known for collaborating with Liam Neeson in their recent action thrillers. Was it a voyage worth taking this summer, or was it another failed attempt at bringing a theme park ride to the big screen? Let's get on that boat and find out.
The story takes place during World War I, where a British scientist/explorer named Lily Houghton (Blunt) and her brother McGregor (Whitehall) are on a quest to find the magical tree that possesses healing powers. They seek the help of Frank Wolff (Johnson), a cynical but noble riverboat captain who guides them through the dangerous jungles. During the trip, they must survive against the Imperial German expedition lead by Prince Joachim (Plemons), who also seeks the tree, to reach their location unharmed. I've been hearing many people comparing this film to the other adventure films from years past. After watching it for myself, I couldn't help but agree with that theory. Not only does "Jungle Cruise" hearkened back to the genre that's been thrilling audiences for years, but it also shared a similar vibe to both "Indiana Jones" and "Tomb Raider". The question is, was it fun enough to honor these two source materials? The answer to that, my friends, is a yes. It's another big-budget Disney film that provided enough escapism and energetic thrills to satisfy those with a hunger for adventure. For Collet-Serra, the film was a different beast altogether regarding its light-hearted tone because he's directed plenty of movies with dark and violent essences, notably the ones with Liam Neeson. Regardless of this, the director maintained a sense of excitement in its environments, action scenes, and characters. He's also not afraid to showcase some little scares if necessary, but I must warn you, some of them may be a bit much for some kids. So please be mindful of that before you take them aboard this cruise. Another thing I enjoyed was its cast. Even though there's nothing special about Dwayne Johnson's performance as Frank, he's able to pull through with his compelling charisma and fun humor. His puns can be a bit annoying, though, but I'm willing to forgive them since they made me laugh. Emily Blunt also did wonders in delivering a satisfying performance as Lily Houghton. This character is more along the lines of a female Indiana Jones than a Lara Croft rip-off in terms of her scientific knowledge and adventurous spirit. While she's nowhere near as memorable as Harrison Ford's iconic character, Blunt succeeded in making Lily a likable and robust lead with a healthy mixture of charm and comedy. Plus, her chemistry with Johnson was just as lively as the exotic wildlife presented on screen. It's always essential to know that you have to have a cast that's as entertaining as its concept whenever you make a fun and dynamic film. "Jungle Cruise" accomplished that feat with ease thanks to its attractive and talented main leads. Jack Whitehall as Lily's brother seemed like a pretty big gamble in terms of his character being a comic relief, but it's a gamble that paid off well in the end. What seemed to be an unnecessary addition that's only there for cheap laughs turned out to be a surprisingly decent guest in the expedition. Jesse Plemons also had some fun in his role as Prince Joachim, a character that had the actor show off his impressive German accent. As for its flaws, the storyline in "Jungle Cruise" was undoubtedly formulaic, with plenty of nods and winks to the genre to go around, mainly from "Indiana Jones". Despite that, it offered some goofy enjoyment and a couple of surprises to make this tour more exciting than it should have. There were also some uses of CGI that were understandably overplayed a bit. The visuals for the jungle-like settings looked nice, but there were also some scenes where the CGI made its animals less convincing than others, mainly the jaguar. You read that right, folks, the jaguar in "Jungle Cruise" is 100% computer-generated. Not a single real-life jaguar in sight. Probably to get PETA off Disney's back, which I can understand. The editing could also be a bit better for a few action scenes and scenery shots. It sometimes felt too rushed for me to enjoy the latter in their full capacity.
Overall, "Jungle Cruise" is far from a perfect voyage, but it has enough mileage in its engine to keep the ship floating. Despite not matching the standards of "Pirates of the Caribbean" in terms of its plot and inconsistent visuals, the film accomplished its goal of being a suitable callback to the adventure films of yesteryear. With its charismatic cast, a delightful yet formulaic story, and its irresistible adventure vibe, this is another decent addition to Disney's series of attraction-turned-blockbusters. It's worth checking out if you're a fan of the two main leads and enjoy films with pure escapism. I wonder if they'll do a movie based on Space Mountain next.