Jungle Cruise Movie Review
Dwayne Johnson tells bad jokes and Emily Blunt looks exasperated in Jungle Cruise, a surprisingly entertaining adventure that feels like Pirates of the Caribbean meets The Mummy meets Indiana Jones. It may not be quite as good as any of those three movies, but Disney has something on its hands here.
With a plot that involves a magical tree, lots of river dangers, and an eccentric German prince played by Jesse Plemmons, Jungle Cruise has no right to be as good as it is, but director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan) immediately finds that sweet spot at the center of authentic adventure, ridiculousness, and Disney pop.
Based on a theme park ride that involves a boat floating down a manufactured river and in between a few animatronics, Collet-Serra gets the easy stuff out of the way before taking his crew over a waterfall or two. With five credited writers, the movie occasionally leans into the familiar--Plemmons aside, the main threat is a group of cursed, undead conquistadors that feels a little too similar to the bad guys in Pirates--but Disney movies don’t need originality as much as they need magic.
And Jungle Cruise has magic.
The magic can be found in Johnson and Blunt, who have more than enough chemistry to make Jon Krasinski a little nervous. The casting of Plemmons is inspired and he gives back in folds, playing a character that may not come close to the silliness of Jack Sparrow but whose flamboyance leaves a mark nonetheless. And the action, which wiggles and worms its way through the jungle in consistently over-the-top but endearing ways, should capture the imagination of most viewers willing to imagine.
The band of evil conquistadors, led by Edgar Ramirez, is the movie’s biggest weakness. Though very similar to the undead pirates in Disney’s popular franchise, none of them come close to the charisma of Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa; it’s hard to say this is Ramirez’s fault as he is rarely given the opportunity to do anything behind an armada of CGI and generic dialogue, but it’s a miss for the film to establish a truly formidable foe.
Even still, Jungle Cruise is a lot of fun. It may not be a remarkable film, but it’s the best movie based on a Disney ride since the original Pirates of the Caribbean--and I’m not saying that facetiously.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.