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.

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