In the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean, yet another famous Disneyland ride has spawned the beginnings of a brand new film franchise – Jungle Cruise. In it, Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) join forces as they’re thrust on an epic quest to uncover an ancient power that has been lost in the jungle. Little do they know, the deeper they venture, the greater the threat becomes.
Jungle Cruise takes the form of a pretty typical action adventure, something in the vein of Journey to the Centre of the Earth, with hints of Indiana Jones and Uncharted elements weaved in here and there. I can make all of these comparisons because it’s a genre and area of storytelling that has been explored countless times before, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. At its core, yes, Jungle Cruise follows a general arc that you’d largely expect to see, but there are specific moments on this lengthy boat ride which really stand out and make a grand impact on the story. There are instances where it throws the narrative in a completely different direction, altering the way we perceive certain characters and doing things that felt quite new and fresh. Believe it or not, it actually has some surprises along the way that I could have never seen coming. So all credit to the writers who have successfully done more than just turn this into a cookie-cutter adventure.
What’s great is that it always feels like the plot is moving forward, either for our heroes or our villains. With a decent amount of moving parts and unwinding character arcs, there’s always something engaging going on. I was waiting for it to take a dip in pacing at some point through the second act, but it never really comes. There is one sequence that I initially believed would lead to a slower section of the film, but it actually moves on quickly and just gets right back on track. There’s a decent amount of pretty thrilling action sequences throughout that keep you invested and have wanting to see how it all plays out. Overall, it’s a very exciting adventure that makes you feel like you’re on a bit of a theme park ride.
I also want to touch on the visuals and the overall scale. There may be one or two moments where the visual effects are somewhat obvious, but for the most part it looks pretty damn beautiful throughout. Most of what happens stays pretty confined within the river/jungle area, but there’s still some quite grand scenes that look stunning – as you’d expect with an estimated $200 million budget.
Where Jungle Cruise shines is with the brilliant pairing of Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, both of whom are fantastic in here. Whether it be their back and forth bather, their individual comedic moments or their respective action-adventure sequences, every second spent watching them is an absolute blast. In some ways, Dwayne plays a similar role to what we usually see from him in other films, just oozing charisma in every moment, but there is a touch more depth to this specific character that makes him a bit more interesting. Emily manages to steal his thunder across many scenes, clearly just having a tonne of fun while getting to kick some ass in a very convincing manner. Both of them together lead to a number of quite hilarious moments make this film go from potentially average to very enjoyable.
Jack Whitehall joins the adventure as Lily’s brother MacGregor, a decision I thought would end up ruining the film. Mainly because it initially seemed like he was tagging along just to be the butt of some jokes… and to be honest, that’s kind of what he is, in part. But he actually does add some entertainment value to the story and winds up playing a decent role. On the villain side, Jesse Plemons plays the obviously evil Prince Joachim, a cliche moustache-twirling villain whose sole desire is to thwart the efforts of our heroes. He does play a very quirky and campy character, but it oddly works within this film – probably due to Jesse’s dedicated performance. It’s nothing incredible or game-changing, but it’s fine in the context of this family-friendly adventure.
In the end, Jungle Cruise proves to be a delightfully enjoyable family-friendly adventure packed with light thrills, a fast pace and neat narrative surprises to keep audiences invested. Led by two infectiously charismatic performances from Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, this wild journey through the jungle is an exciting ride fit for audiences both young and old. Don’t go in expecting the quality of an instant-classic adventure flick, akin to Indiana Jones or National Treasure, and you’re sure to get a kick out of the comedy, action and story.