Jungle Cruise Review: Welcome to the Back Side of Fun

Jungle Cruise

The Jungle Cruise has been a staple of Disneyland since its opening in 1955. Although some of Jungle Cruise has changed over the year, it relatively remains the same. After the massive success of Pirates of the Caribbean, it was only a matter of time before Walt Disney Studios turns this classic ride into a movie. After all, the ride was highly inspired by Disney’s True-Life Adventure series and John Huston’s The African Queen. So you can say it’s in its DNA. 

Jungle Cruise follows Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a fledgling explorer who travels to the Amazon to search for a mythical tree with unique healing abilities. She teams up with Skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) and MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) to uncover the secrets of the tree and prevent its power from falling into the wrong hands.

Jungle Cruise is a blatant attempt to merge the adventures of Indiana Jones and Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy with the theme of the classic Disney ride. It’s like a fine blend of action, adventure, comedy, horror, and romance that almost becomes the perfect fusion of sub-genres. The film isn’t high art, but it’s still an enjoyable nonstop ride. Jungle Cruise features plenty of action set-pieces and a sincere amount of corny dad jokes that often hits the mark thanks to the charm of the cast. 

Yet the film isn’t entirely perfect. First of all, the villains in the movie are incredibly uneven and hard to really connect to. Primarily the movie focuses on Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) while keeping Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) in the background, despite his massive importance in the film’s plotline. As goofy and entertaining as Jesse Plemons is, Prince Joachim is still just a one-dimensional character. Aguirre is the only villain with depth, and he’s barely in the film. You would think that the studio that brought us Peter Pan would provide us with a good villain. Unfortunately, these villains don’t hook you.

Jungle Cruise is like an elevator. Why?
Because it works on so many levels.

Nevertheless, set aside those villains for now because they don’t matter. Instead, think of Jungle Cruise as the Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Jack Whitehall show. While it’s easy to compare this movie to Pirates of the Caribbean, it closely resembles The Mummy than it does Pirates. It’s probably for the best because Disney doesn’t want Jungle Cruise to be arr-rated. 

In Jungle Cruise, Johnson plays a rugged smooth-talking adventurer. Blunt plays the wannabe explorer looking for recognition in a field where women are rarely accepted. Lastly, Whitehall plays a privileged brother that would do anything for his sister. These are descriptions you can associate with the characters of Mummy and Cruise. As a result, this leads to an enjoyable ensemble cast crucial to the film’s success. 

Dwayne Johnson is perfect as the quippy action hero with a big heart. Much like his earlier roles, he just has the right combination of swagger, charm, and silliness — perfect for a Jungle Cruise skipper. Emily Blunt is also appropriately cast as the no-nonsense hellraising explorer. We’ve seen her do action and comedies well, and Jungle Cruise is no exception. Whitehall is a versatile actor and does a delightful job of playing the comic relief. He plays off these hard-headed characters with such hilarity. Why it doesn’t even seem like he’s stuck between a Rock and a hard place. 

Every minute of Jungle Cruise is a love letter to the adventure genre, and in many ways, it’s also a love letter to the Walt Disney live-action adventure films of old. As a whole Cruise won’t be mistaken for a deep art house film. It works well on its own and still manages to offer spectacle and charm to become one of the best popcorn flicks of the year. In other words, Jungle Cruise is like an elevator. Why? Because it works on so many levels.

…sorry about the dad jokes, readers. The jokes just became apparent to me.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

Jungle Cruise hits theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 30th.

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