Dwayne Johnson is Frank and Emily Blunt is Lily in Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE.
Jungle Cruise is the story Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), an ambitious botanist and explorer who seeks out the fabled Tree of Life—thought to provide the power of healing—during the early 1900s. The acquisition of an artifact leads Houghton and her brother (Jack Whitehall) to the Amazon where they enlist the help of Captain Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a struggling steamboat captain who spends most of his time giving river cruises to tourists. After a loose agreement, the three set sail on a grand adventure to find their treasure but soon discover that other interested and nefarious parties are in their wake.
What works in Jungle Cruise is the application of the family-friendly formula that has served Disney well for decades. Johnson, Blunt, and Whitehall form a delightful trio with complimentary forms of charisma and comedy. Furthermore, it’s quite refreshing to see director Jaume Collet-Serra lean into Blunt’s physical prowess by giving her character the majority share of the action. Similarly, Johnson’s typical bravado is muted with heart-warming puns and an affable scoundrel-esque demeanor. Finally, while the “hunt-for-treasure-under-duress-while-growing-as-people” formula has been done many times, Jungle Cruise embraces it like a warm blanket and finds enough ways to keep it fresh. All-in-all, the balance of thrills and laughs works well.
There are some elements of Jungle Cruise that might distract individuals from enjoying the overall experience. First, while the practical stunts are varied and impressive, the computer-generated characters appear notably outdated. This is particularly difficult given that the monsters are clearly meant to add an element of horror, but the effects look more cartoonish. Next, the lore feels a little overworked and convoluted at times. The writers (Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa) put forth a valiant attempt to develop a deep, rich, narrative but perhaps given the material, some simplification would have helped. By the third act, it becomes tricky to keep straight all of the myths, legends, and character motivations.
Also, parents should take note of the PG-13 rating which mostly applies to what could be some scary elements for younger viewers. The content itself isn’t that mature, but there are sequences with vicious snakes, bees, and quasi-zombies that could be unsettling.
Jungle Cruise scratches an itch for some great family fun. It’s the type of movie best accompanied by a big bucket of popcorn and the brain set to the off position. If people can sit back simply enjoy the ride without thinking too hard about the story, there’s definite entertainment to be had.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Mummy