Cruising along to the summer blockbuster season
Jungle Cruise is, in its simplest form, a proper summer blockbuster. It’s cheesy, packed full of slapstick jokes and puns wrapped around enough action to fulfil the quota for a fun-packed family adventure.
Based on the theme park ride of the same name, the intent to rekindle that same spark Pirates Of The Caribbean achieved is certainly evident. In fact, Jungle Cruise feels like a patchwork of different movies all rolled into one.
There are echoes of The Mummy (the 1999 version, not the ghastly reboot) with its character dynamics, the adventure and antagonists from Indiana Jones and the general story and treasure hunt of Pirates. There’s definitely a sense of Deja vu while watching and that’s both to the strength and weakness of this film.
Before we dive into that, the story here essentially takes a formulaic treasure hunt story and fleshes it out to include elements of Disney’s theme park ride, Jungle Cruise.
At the center of this romp sits Dr Lily Houghton and her brother Macgregor. Together, they enlist the talents of wisecracking, pun-making skipper Frank Wolff to locate an ancient tree. There’s a prophecy around this allegedly claiming that it has the power to heal. If true, this could change the future of medicine forever.
So off the gang go, cruising down the river to find this ancient treasure. However, it soon becomes clear that they’re not alone in this pursuit.
From here, the story takes on all the usual tricks of the genre, with lots of action set pieces and plenty of simple but effective bouts of dialogue to progress the character arcs.
Jungle Cruise is unashamedly good fun. It’s a proper guilty pleasure with some genuine laugh out loud moments. Jack Whitehall is obviously an acquired taste but he brings the character of MacGregor to life in the best possible way. It’s a camp, not-quite-outright-gay performance but one that certainly shines.
Likewise, Emily Blunt does a decent job bringing Lily (aka. Dr Pants) to life alongside Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of Frank Wolff. If his character feels familiar it’s mostly down to the choice of films The Rock picks.
There have been a lot of jungle adventures over the years and Johnson feels like he’s been in them all. While he’s not bad here, and certainly charismatic, this performance tends to bleed into a lot of the other jungle-faring romps too.
That’s something echoed by the antagonists of this movie as well. Unlike iconic characters like Barbossa and Davey Jones in Pirates, there’s absolutely nothing here that gives these players depth beyond the “very-obviously-evil” trope. Even the creature designs feel like they’ve just been kicked off Davey Jones’ ship.
Where the film excels though is in its pacing and general storyline. Sure, the movie is a bit predictable but this is a proper family adventure and the movie sticks to all the usual tropes and expectations of the genre. It never takes itself too seriously either.
There’s one action scene early on where Lily ziplines her way onto Frank’s boat. Instead of a smooth landing, a sheet blows in her face and she’s forced to crash-land on an adjacent barge. It’s a simple, silly moment of subverting expectations and Jungle Cruise has these segments in abundance.
You’re obviously not going to get Oscar winning material here. When it comes to summer blockbusters (and Christmas movies too by that same token) being cheesy and predictable is just part of the package. The real meat and potatoes comes from the fun factor and Jungle Cruise has bundles of it.
For those old enough to remember, there was a time when The Mummy was panned hard by critics. Some called it hopeless and an Indiana Jones wannabe. Fast forward to 2021 and it still holds up as one of the more fun and enjoyable entries in the genre.
Jungle Cruise is unlikely to ascend to that same cult status but it’ll definitely find an audience. This is a family adventure first and foremost, and it has enough in the tank to please both kids and adults. This is one trek through the jungle well worth taking.
Read More: Jungle Cruise Ending Explained