This review is spoiler-free.
Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal – a discovery that will change the future of medicine!
Before watching this movie, I decided to do some research! Well, I say research, I watched a 2021 Jungle Cruise full-ride experience video on YouTube to try and get a flavour of what this movie was based off. Having never been to a Disney theme park, my prior knowledge of what Jungle Cruise is was next to nothing. Is having any idea of the ride relevant to the movie? Not at all! However, the opening scene does pay a nice homage to the ride, so I did appreciate what they did here, something I wouldn’t have picked up on if I hadn’t been digging around on YouTube!
Anyway, let’s turn our attention to the movie and crack on with the review!
First and foremost, I don’t think it’s harsh to say that Jungle Cruise is a very un-original and Disney-formulaic movie. If you have seen movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and The Mummy then you’ll have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into. But when I say that, I mean this in the nicest possible way, because the fact of the matter is I had an incredibly fun time with this movie! It was exciting, action-packed and was supported with some great characters! While the story wasn’t anything new, taking a lot of beats from the films I have mentioned above, it was still crafted well from start to finish. The Jungle Cruise is the sort of movie that is perfect to watch on a Sunday afternoon, chilling on the sofa grazing with some snacks. It’s an easy, but rewarding watch.
In terms of the characters, Emily Blunt (Lily Houghton) and Dwayne Johnson (Frank Wolff aka Skipper) are perfectly cast and have a great on-screen dynamic, and while I wasn’t ever truly convinced with the romantic notes and some of the running jokes between the pair, I genuinely enjoyed their performances, both individually and as a duo. I think you can easily see similarities between Jungle Cruise and The Mummy in regards to the characters as well, as you get a real Frank/O’Connell and Lily/Evelyn vibe throughout. On a basic level, Frank is a man of action who brings the muscle, whereas Lily brings the brains, but I think there is a little more too them then that, but without spoiling things, I can’t say what, you’ll have to see it for yourself! I also really enjoyed the feminist aspects of Lily’s character and some of her story moments and they did a great job in showcasing these. Big thumbs up from me on this!
Supporting these great lead characters are Jack Whitehall (McGregor Houghton) and Jesse Plemons (Prince Joachim). Historically, I was never a fan of Whitehall’s comedy, maybe being a pretentious film student at University as he was breaking into the big time, his turned up to eleven humour and my more reserved nature was just never a good mix. However three years ago I discovered Travels with my Father, a semi-scripted travel mock-doc that sees Whitehall travel the world with his real life, and very conservative, father. The show is outstanding, and he won me over, finally! I mention this, because his character here could not have been more like his father on that show! Likewise, the journey the character goes on is extremely satisfying and Whitehall does a great job. As for Plemons, wow, talk about a scene-stealer! As far as villains go, he walks that line of menacing and buffoonery perfectly. A great performance.
As for the set designs, sound track and digital effects? It’s mostly positive! The CGI, in terms of the environmental aspects and action set pieces, was outstanding. The only downfall were the animal effects – they didn’t look great! As for the score, the music helped to elevate and add to scenes, so no complaints there. Now, the film uses an instrumental cover song, from one of the world’s most well-known metal bands. It was… an interesting choice that I am incredibly torn on! This is my favourite song by said band, and what they did to it was perfection. Does it fit within the context of the movie? That is up for debate. It did take me out of film twice, but I think if you are unaware of the song you’ll not have the same issue.
Does Jungle Cruise deserve a sequel? I suppose that depends on how the movie does commercially. With the film being split between Disney+ Premium (how I watched it) and cinemas, it will be interesting to see how it does! Unlike the first Pirates of the Caribbean, it is up for debate whether or not Jungle Cruise has enough story and longevity to warrant future films. If this is a ‘one and done’ then they have succeeding in creating a fun action-adventure movie. If they decide to go ahead with a follow-up, and if it is half has enjoyable as the first film, then I’d be more than happy to watch another outing!
Jungle Cruise won’t be the most original movie you’ll see this year, but you’ll struggle to find a film that is as enjoyable, action-packed and as much fun! Great characters, breath-taking locations and an exciting story all adds to the overall enjoyment of the film. A family-friendly experience that will has something for everyone!