Jungle Cruise: Film Review

Jungle Cruise

Photo by Frank Masi. © 2020 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

I absolutely love classic family-friendly action-adventure films like Pirates of the Caribbean and Indiana Jones so it’s no surprise that I enjoyed Jungle Cruise big time.

Taking inspiration from the Disneyland theme park attraction of the same name, Jungle Cruise is set in 1916 and follows Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a botanist who wants to find the Tears of the Moon, a flower which is believed to have healing powers that could benefit modern medicine. After stealing an arrowhead from a society in London, she heads to Porto Velho in Brazil with her reluctant brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to find a riverboat captain to take them up the Amazon River on their quest. But in a case of mistaken identity, she ends up meeting skipper and tour guide Frank (Dwayne Johnson) instead of his more esteemed rival Nilo (Paul Giamatti). Their journey is filled with peril in the form of deadly animals, raging rapids, cursed mercenaries and a German aristocrat named Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) in hot pursuit.

Jungle Cruise reminded me of films such as Romancing the Stone, The Mummy (1999), the first Pirates of the Caribbean and the Indiana Jones franchise – I love all of these movies so Jungle Cruise was right up my street and I know that if I was still a youngster I would have watched this over and over again. It’s just so much fun! It is an entertaining thrill ride for all the family – there’s screwball comedy, tons of exciting and amusing action setpieces and stunts, heartfelt scenes, and some darker moments that kids may find scary.

There are a few downsides – I thought the film was way too long so I was fully ready for it to wrap up as it approached its (very predictable yet heartwarming) conclusion. Also, the film is too heavy on the CGI, particularly with the animals and the cursed villains.

Blunt is perfectly cast as the determined and fearless Lily, who won’t take no for an answer and wears the trousers (quite literally). She is a pioneering woman, a trailblazer for all female scientists and I loved her as this character. She has great chemistry with Johnson and they both seem to be having a great time making this. I wasn’t totally convinced Johnson was the right fit for Frank in terms of physicality but he was a lot of fun and his dad jokes were very bad.

A lot of people took issue with Whitehall being cast as Disney’s first-ever openly gay character, which I can understand, but I personally thought he embodied the spoiled rich boy character well, even if his jokes didn’t always work. I’m glad the film included a scene which addressed his sexuality, but it’s a shame that Disney wouldn’t let them actually use the word “gay”. This scene could easily go over the heads of many and I’m sure that was the intention.

Plemons has been tapped to play the antagonist many times in the past and that’s because he does it so well. He was hilarious as the campy villain. His accent was fantastic and he seemed to really enjoy himself in the role. While he is the fun villain, there is also Edgar Ramirez as Aguirre, a cursed mercenary that has quite a scary appearance – I would put him on a same level as the Captain Barbossa reveal in Pirates.

Jungle Cruise is a feel-good throwback action-adventure that looks set to be the family movie of the summer.

In cinemas and Disney+ with Premier Access from Friday 30th July

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Luca: Disney+ Film Review


Courtesy of Disney

I haven’t heard that much about Luca and I fear the marketing push hasn’t been as big as other Pixar releases, which is a shame because this movie is a total delight and is a perfect way to get you in the summer mood.

Luca, the shortest Pixar film since Toy Story, is set in 1950s/60s Italy. It follows a sea monster named Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who makes a friend named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) and comes to discover that he can take human form on land, just like Alberto. After he learns more about the human way of life on their island, they put their knowledge to the test by going to the seaside fishing town of Portorosso. They both dream of buying a Vespa so they can go off on adventures, and they believe winning the Portorosso Cup – a triathlon involving cycling, swimming and eating pasta – is their way to raise the cash.

A lot of Pixar’s recent releases have been grand, ambitious films which take on big existential themes so in comparison Luca feels very slight and small in scale, but that’s not a negative – it is refreshing to have a more simplistic, grounded isolated story. I’ll always prefer a small story told very well than a big one that’s bitten off more than it can chew.

I wasn’t completely sold on the story at first; I didn’t think this sea monster tale would really hook me in, but I was soon won over by the characters and this lovely coming-of-age story. And somewhere along the line I became so invested in this story of young male friendship that I surprised myself by crying at the end! Who knew this film would be so moving?! And it was also so much funnier than I expected it to be and made me properly laugh out loud several times (most of them being because of the cat).

Tremblay was well cast as the young, naive and timid Luca, I liked Grazer as the confident and more experienced Alberto, who takes him under his wing, as well as Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan as Luca’s overprotective parents, but my favourites were Emma Berman as Giulia, she has so much personality and sass, and Saverio Raimondo as Ercole, the slimy antagonist, sea monster hunter and reigning Portorosso Cup champ.

I use the word “lovely” far too often in reviews but it really is the best word to sum up Luca. It tells a charming story about acceptance and how people are scared by what they don’t know/people who are different. The visuals are as gorgeous as you’d expect from a Pixar film and will make you want to go on holiday to Italy. It’s a shame that it’s going on Disney+ as I would have loved to see this on the big screen. I’m ready to see it again!

On Disney+ from Friday 18th June

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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