Jungle Cruise starring fan-favorites Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt is a Disney theme-park joy ride directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. It is also a fantastical adventure that is worth embarking upon. The thrill-ride which is based on the concept of the ride of the same name at Disneyland revolves around a journey into the Amazon jungle, river, and beyond, undertaken by Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) along with her brother McGregor Houghton played by a hilarious Jack Whitehall. They are on the hunt for a legendary tree that has healing powers and can change medicine forever. Obviously, they can’t do it alone! Enters a very punny and wisecracking Skipper Frank Wolff (Johnson) who not only heads them the right direction (after tricking them, a lot of times) but also steers the boat (read the movie) into a space where one stops questioning everything and surrenders to the good old Disney escapism. Which is even more enjoyable thanks to the formidable pairing of Johnson and Blunt who share a sparkling chemistry. Even with writing inconsistencies and the obvious, very Pirates Of The Caribbean-esque tropes, Jungle Cruise dishes action, adventure, comedy and romance in equal measures. Is it worth the watch though? Find out in the review below.
First thing’s first – Jungle Cruise is exactly what you’d expect it to be! Loud, boisterous and outlandish with larger-than-life characters and urban legends. In fact, the trailer doesn’t even do justice to the CGI-rich extravaganza in store. Written by Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, the story isn’t something that you haven’t seen already but the screenplay is engrossing enough to keep one invested throughout the film which scores points on knowing when to stop. Obviously, it’s got the Disney treatment going for it but director Jaume Collet-Serra tries to hold onto sensibilities that are wider than the former. At times he manages to pull it off and for the rest of the times there is a stellar cast at hand including Jesse Plemons, Edgar Ramírez who amp up the trashy fun along with a convincing job by Johnson, Blunt and Whitehall. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt couldn’t be more different if they wanted to. But the two are some of the biggest fan favorites for a reason. With a screen-presence that can’t be replicated, one is forced to wonder what took movie makers so long to bring them together because they are a riot! And they kinda sorta know that already! Which is why they share a sparkling chemistry that is hard to articulate. You don’t exactly know what works–except from the PG-13 sex-devoid sequence that only hightens the tension–but it works and how! So much so that, it is their formidable pair and their romance that holds the film together when reality and logic starts to seep in. Yeah, those have no business being present when the trip promises a journey into the wild, along the Amazon jungles and magical realms.
Like Johnson’s Frank once says – “Everything you see wants to kill you and can” and from lounging boa snakes to the better churner river, they are surrounded by danger and you know Frank will always rescue Lily and save the day, you kind of want to see how! In fact, a lot of times Lily doesn’t need saving and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that seeing Blunt pop off in some of the action sequences is the highlight of the movie.
Oh yes, Blunt is spectacular even individually as the determined researcher who is pursuing a career in science and wearing pants to the surprise of her male counterparts. She is feisty and swell and reminds the viewer how she can carry the material on her shoulders. From opening locks in no time to navigate her way through a scuffle without a tear, she sure known how to make her through patriarchy and general bullsh*t.
Make no mistake, even Johnson is his charming self, serving not just muscles but wit and soul that makes the film more than just an actualised theme-park joy ride. He lights up the screen in each and every frame. A con man but the only skipper in town who can fight a leopard. And is passionate about puns and corny jokes. A little too much for my liking but hey, it is easy to overlook when one is transported to the Amazonian forest and he uses the same jokes to get the job done. That does it!
They are also joined by memorable characters like Jack Whitehall’s McGregor Houghton and Jesse Plemmons’ Prince Joachim. You’re probably pronouncing Joachim wrong and the prince doesn’t like it. If you must know, he has a strange Bavarian accent that works like a charm in adding the comic relief and Plemmons knows how to just land it. Even Whitehall as McGregof is a goof when he is not being a dinner jacket-wearing snob, carrying toiletries among other things to the riverboat. But again, as his character’s arc develops, he comes as a layered man who is more than his possessions. One who hasn’t let the struggles of a being a gay man make him bitter. And his earnety translates well.
Now, while the narrative takes a few dips along the way, Collet-Serra’s vision is not not cohesive. It is a far departure from him outings like Orphan but one that makes the viewer excited about his upcoming Black Adam with none other than Johnson. Also, I have a confession to make – snakes make me uncomfortable. And it is important that I lay it out because they seem to be crawling throughout the film but somehow the action is enthralling and hilarious at the same time. I mean we have a Prince who will take directions from bees if he has to. Yes, it sounds ludicrous but that’s exactly what works for the film. Also, the adventure is heightened with a great background score.
However, the pacing isn’t the problem. Inconsistent writing also mars a bit of the fun and leaves one with a lot of follow up questions. Obviously, it is not original with the usual set-ups and the obvious Pirates Of The Caribbean-esque tropes that relies on CGI and post-production a bit too much but the good part is that it is the finest post-production I’ve seen in a long time. Also, doesn’t claim to be an intellectual ride to explore the unknown. It sells action adventure and fantasy and a Disney theme-park joy ride. And it delivers exactly that.
So, does it get predictable and suffers at the hands of the many writers the film has on board? Yes. But I had fun; fun being the operative word! Watch it for Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt’s convincing act and superlative chemistry. That and the good old Disney escapism that, let’s admit it, we could all use in our pandemic-stricken world.
Jungle Cruise is all set to release theatrically in India on September 24 in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India