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Film Review: ‘Jungle Cruise’ is a Summer Adventure as Only Disney Can Do It

Dwayne Johnson as Frank and Emily Blunt as Lily in JUNGLE CRUISE. Photo by Frank Masi. © 2020 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Disney

Disney can do a family adventure like few others, when they’re on their game. Go figure, adapting theme park rides can even be their specialty. Despite the potential for stupidity, their latest blockbuster, Jungle Cruise, is a ridiculously good time. Mixing elements of films like the Indiana Jones franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Romancing the Stone, this is a purely fun outing for young and old, alike. In fact, it likely will even be the closest thing we get to a true version of an Uncharted adaptation. All of the excitement those products give us, so too does this movie. Whether you see it in theaters or on Disney+, it’s one to seek out.

Jungle Cruise will remind you of a lot of things, but mostly it just feels like a classic Disney adventure tale. There’s action, comedy, and even emotion. The mix of humor and heart really makes it feel timeless. This is the sort of formula that never gets old. When done right, and this is definitely done right, it’s everything you want out of a mainstream bit of entertainment.

Disney

As you might imagine, this expands greatly on Disneyland’s theme park ride which centers around a small riverboat taking tourists on a dangerous cruise through the jungle. Here, the skipper of that boat is Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a mix of action hero and con artist. We see him in his element, hamming it up on a tour. We also meet Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a woman of science who is in search of something incredible. She’s looking for a legendary tree with healing powers, hoping to share it with the world and prove an until-now mocked thesis. Along with her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), she travels from England to the Amazon, desperate to find it before it falls into the wrong hands. Thrown together with Frank, the researcher and the skipper set off on his riverboat.

As they search for the tree, they’re pursued by the dastardly Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who wants access to it for his own nefarious purposes. It’s a race against time, with all the dangers of the jungle, both animal and supernatural, lurking around. Plus, the more Lily and MacGregor learn about Frank, the more layers this adventures gets added on with. It’s often silly, but it’s almost always a ton of fun.

Disney

The chemistry between Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson is utterly delightful. Plus, Jesse Plemons is clearly having the time of his life playing a villain. Blunt gives off an Indiana Jones vibe, but very much is playing a unique character all her own. Johnson is charming and hilarious, but obviously also an imposing force of nature during the action sequences. Then, there’s Plemons, hamming it up in a way that’s immensely enjoyable. The three of them are a joy to watch here. Supporting players here include Paul Giamatti, Edgar Ramírez, and many more, in addition to the aforementioned Jack Whitehall, who is mostly the butt of jokes.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra somehow wrangles a screenplay from a team of writers that constantly is taking the flick in different directions. The chemistry between the leads does a lot of work, but Collet-Serra keeps you thrilled with exciting set pieces. The script from the hodgepodge of Glenn Ficarra, Josh Goldstein, Michael Green, John Norville, and John Requa probably should have been a bigger mess, honestly. The fact that it’s even a little coherent is a bit of a miracle. Sure, it’s about a dozen different movies, but nearly all of them are worth watching. The film runs about ten minutes longer than it needs to, but the issues here are small, while the pleasures are large.

Jungle Cruise is fun, from start to finish. Is it anything more than that? No, not really. However, what more do you want out of a summer movie? This Disney adventure scratches a real itch, and could very well be one of the season’s bigger hits. Regardless of money, however, it’s just a real good time for the whole family. Don’t miss this film!

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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