‘Jungle Cruise’ Is An Entertaining Ride Along The Amazon River – Review
So, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt meet each other in a bar alongside the Amazon River… No, this is not the beginning of some corny joke (of which Jungle Cruise has many, thanks to Johnson’s Frank firing off ‘dad’ jokes like they’re going out of style), this is quite literally a plot point in Disney’s latest adventure film, Jungle Cruise.
Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) is on a mission to find the Tears of the Moon, a tree now that grows petals capable of curing any illness or injury and lift any curse. While it is believed to be nothing more than a myth, Houghton, with the help of her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), detail Lily’s research to an association of Royal Society explorers in an effort to gain access to an arrowhead she believes is the key to locating the fabled tree. Of course, the Royal Society denies them access because why on earth would they ever allow a woman into their ranks? So, what does Lily do? Well, she does what any woman would and that is taking matters into her own hands.
Lily steals the arrowhead from the Royal Society, having a run-in with Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), an entitled German aristocrat who wants the arrowhead and to find the location of the tree for his own selfish gains. Lily knows she has to move quickly because danger is closing in fast, and with her brother in tow, she embarks on a brand new adventure to the Amazon river. Requiring assistance navigating the river, Lily enlists the help of Frank (and his riverboat) to complete their quest, facing probably peril along the way.
Based on the popular Disney theme park attraction of the same name, Jungle Cruise feels like the offspring of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy, with a sprinkling of Indiana Jones. While not necessarily as good as the aforementioned films, it certainly gives off similar vibes of all three. While the story is formulaic in terms of typical action-adventure tales, it really does shine with the chemistry between its leads. Both Blunt and Johnson are a joy to watch and the pair really do take the fun up a few notches – which I don’t think would have been the case had other actors been tackling the lead roles. There’s just something about their banter that will have you simultaneously laughing and ‘awwing’, and this is where the comparison to The Mummy comes in. Blunt’s Lily and Johnson’s Frank are Evie and Rick for a new generation of movie-goers.
In addition to the performances of Blunt and Johnson, Whitehall holds his own as MacGregor and is part of some of the film’s funnier moments. However, the standout was certainly Plemons as Prince Joachim. If you’ve seen Game Night (and if you haven’t, you really should), you’d already know that Plemons’ comedic timing is impeccable. While Plemons doesn’t have as much screen time as his colleagues, he gives his all to the character with the time he’s given. Joining Plemons with a penchant for villainy is Edgar Ramirez as the former conquistador named Aguirre. While the design and presence of Aguirre are frightening, Ramirez isn’t given nearly enough to do. Based on the elements that Jungle Cruise gives audiences, one would think that his villain would be akin to Captain Barbossa or Davy Jones of Pirates of the Caribbean, however, he, unfortunately, seems to be a watered-down version of the pair. This is mostly due to lack of screen time and I do wish we’d been able to see more of Aguirre.
Now, although Jungle Cruise is entertaining, for the most part, it would be remiss of me not to mention that it does have some shortcomings outside of the lack of screen time for certain characters. Jungle Cruise doesn’t really do enough to set itself apart from other films in the same vein. This becomes a problem when you realize that all this does is show that those other films do many things much better than Jungle Cruise. In addition to this, there is a specific scene that showcases a flashback featuring Aguirre that just did not sit well with me (you’ll know it when you see it). All of this is to say that while the film is entertaining, these kinds of plot points really take you out of the experience for a moment and unfortunately stop Jungle Cruise from being a great film.
That being said, the movie is still an entertaining watch that is likely to leave the majority of viewers satisfied. So if you’re looking for an effervescent exploit along the Amazon river, then Jungle Cruise is the movie for you.