In some ways a movie like Disney’s new Jungle Cruise should be made for me. I’m a big Disneyland fan, love the Jungle Cruise attraction and am always up for an adventure story. Even last Fall I did a whole video ranking all of the current films based on Disney rides (even The Country Bears!)
Ever since the success of the original Pirates of the Caribbean Disney has been dying for a new successful franchise and whether it be Tomorrowland, The Lone Ranger, John Carter, A Wrinkle in Time and more. It’s discouraging because when these new franchise attempts fail (both critically and box office) they go back to the bland but profitable live action remakes.
Anyway, now we have Jungle Cruise and it’s a light, enjoyable romp through the jungle. That said, it’s a little frustrating because it had all the pieces to be one of my favorites of the year but several choices it makes hold it back from greatness. It’s ok, not great.
The strengths of Jungle Cruise lies in its leads with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson having nice chemistry together. The banter between them feels classic and the action scenes bring back the joy and thrills of a classic adventure film (this film leans into the nostalgia many will have for films like The Mummy, Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone and even Tintin).
I also really enjoyed Jack Whitehall as Blunt’s uppety brother MacGregor. He was new to me as an actor but he stole every scene he was in. I particularly enjoyed his interactions with a pet leopard they have on board the cruise! The CGI wasn’t the best on the leopard but Whitehall made it funny so I didn’t care. Speaking of CGI, there is also a really well done action scene where Johnson steers the boat away from a giant waterfall.
One of the best things about the Disneyland ride is the punny skippers with their embarrassing Dad jokes. I was worried this film would forgo that aspect and take itself too seriously. Fortunately Johnson is up for the cheesy humor, and I got a real kick out of that. The jokes made it a cheeky fun adventure romp.
The problem with Jungle Cruise is it tries way too hard to build lore and create a mythology around the adventure. It should have just been a simple escapade through the jungle but instead we get long sections with Johnson explaining the backstory of the special flower, enchanted conquistadors and aspects to his character that don’t really help endear him to us more in any way.
These long scenes of exposition drag the movie down and we feel its over 2 hour length more than we should. There are also some weird music choices and the CGI can be weak for a film of this magnitude.
I enjoyed Jesse Plemons as the evil Prince Joachim villain but did not need the conquistadors or Paul Giamatti (who’s scenes must have been cut) as a competing merchant named Nilo. It begins to feel overwrought and tiresome when it should be super fun.
Nevertheless, I do think Jungle Cruise is worth watching and a throwback to wholesome family adventure films of the past. I hope it does well and we see more films like it in the future.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the backside of water!”
6 out of 10