Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” review

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is back in the jungle once again with Disney’s latest film.

He went to the jungle in “Journey to Mysterious Island,” he did it again in “Jumanji,” and now he’s doing it again with “Jungle Cruise.” Despite being based on one of Disney’s oldest attractions, people have been wondering how it would turn out. Would it be good like the first “Pirates of the Caribbean,” or do we have another “Haunted Mansion” on our hands. First, let’s look at the story.

The film takes place in 1918 and centers on Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) who are doing research on a tree in the Amazon called the “Tears of the Moon,” which can cure any illness or injury. When the man-dominated association denies their request, the siblings decide to go to the Amazon themselves where they come across a cynical but capable skipper named Frank (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Finding the sacred tree is easier said than done as they encounter dangerous creatures, cursed jungle zombies, and Germans in a submarine. Because of course a film called “Jungle Cruise” would have all these elements here.

As someone who wasn’t expecting much from a movie based on a Disney ride I’ve ridden 50 times, I’ll admit I had a fun time with this one. With that said, a lot of its enjoyment comes from its entertainment value as this is not a fantastically written script. It’s not bad in any way, which is surprising because you can easily see it turn out that way. The best way I can describe it is that it’s essentially Brendan Fraiser’s “The Mummy.” Anyone who is familiar with that film can see that this one has the same setup, almost the exact same characters, and has a lot of effects. This film still stands out because it takes those elements and does some cool things with them while still being entertaining. This is one of the few movies that can be crazy but still keep your interest.

The actors play these roles as character actors, and I mean that in the best way. What I mean is that while these actors are given these characters you’ve seen numerous times, they’re allowed to bring their own charm and feel to them. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is naturally charismatic and has a lot of personalities, so it’s easy to enjoy this guy as he’s both cool and funny. Emily Blunt is also enjoyable as she’s given a good amount of character and humor. Actors like Jack Whitehall also get some laughs, and even the villain characters played by Paul Giamatti and Jesse Plemons are very entertaining with the roles they’re given. The characters and how they work off each other also benefit from the way this film is edited — in that there are a lot of scenes that have such good pacing and timing that it has a strong sense of wit to it. Every moment is acted, shot, and edited in a way that always keeps your attention. You can tell that the director, the actors, and editors wanted to have a ball with this film.

The film also makes the smart choice not to stay too long with the cliches people are used to. They still exist here, but they’ll quickly get past them so you can get to the good stuff. While it does throw a lot at you in terms of information or exposition, it manages to come together because the people behind it know what to focus on and keep in the background. I am aware that this isn’t going to win everyone over as they’re not used to such quick comedy. But as someone who loves this type of humor, it works for me.

It feels bizarre that I’m saying this about a film based on the Jungle Cruise attraction at Disney parks. If you’ve been on the ride you know what its setup is about. You go on a small boat down a river where you come across animatronic animals, fake natives attacking people, and a whole bunch of practical effects. The point being, it’s not something you would look at and say turn it into a big-budget movie. The film is definitely aware of the rides set up. In fact, The Rock’s character introduction is a big sendup to the attraction with its obvious effects and corny but dark sense of humor. I feel like the people took this material and decided to make it as entertaining as they could, and they succeeded on that front.

Having seen the film, I can tell it’s not necessarily something that runs on emotion or has something deep shoved in. It’s clear that it knows that’s not what people want with a movie like this. It knows what it is, has fun with it, and lets you have a fun time while watching it. The director Jaume Collet-Serra and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did a great job here, and I’m excited to see what they do with “Black Adam.” But until then, I’m glad we have an enjoyable film based on a Disney ride. It surprises me because before I wasn’t expecting much from this movie; but now that I’ve seen it, I’m glad I was proven wrong with its likable characters, quick humor, and bizarre entertainment value. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails.


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