Based on Disneyland’s theme park ride where a small riverboat takes a group of travelers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles but with a supernatural element.
Getting a chance to experience a Disneyland theme park ride can create a multitude of positive memories. If not, the studio has developed a similar attraction that may be just as exhilarating. Jungle Cruise (2021) is exactly that in theatrical form. It’s adapted from the ride itself, with a seasoned director, Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan), at the helm and two of Hollywood’s biggest leads, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, at the forefront. Once again Johnson and Blunt show how talented they are at delivering an entertaining performance and story that the whole family can enjoy.
If you’re into fun-filled adventures with danger lurking around every corner then this film is perfect for you. Imagine hearing of a hidden place that if found possesses one of life’s greatest treasures that can save countless lives. People would risk everything to have a part of it. That’s where the legend of ‘The Lost Tears Of The Moon’comes in. It’s the ancient MacGuffin of this film that kicks the story off in all its glory. It’s shrouded in mystery, making this tale that more intriguing. This device provides a great challenge for the protagonists and a high amount of stakes that keeps you drawn in as the plot progresses.
Walking away from this feature not being fond of the character Frank (Johnson) will be difficult due to his role being that good. Frank is adorable, to say the least. He has a strong physical presence, is charming, and has the right amount of energy to lead anyone anywhere. He’s the king of dad jokes, and when he delivers a line you’re either laughing at every other word or shocked by his hilarious honesty and dry humor. He is an opportunist, but given his current circumstances, it’s without a doubt hard not to sympathize with him. When he shares the screen with Lily (Blunt) she has just as much tenacity as he does, just with a different flavor. She is a great character who knows what she wants and won’t stop at anything until she gets it. The banter and chemistry on screen between the two were pleasant. Both have compelling views on life, and it’s simply fun seeing them bounce off of each other.
As far as the tone of this film, it’s a light silly comedy with sprinkles of soft violence throughout. It contains the right balance, not being too violent for a child to watch, but having enough to keep an adult with teenage children engaged. While the two leads were a great breath of fresh air on screen, it would be difficult to say the same about their counterparts. Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim had moments where he created fear with his demeanor, but other times was laughable in his performance with an off-putting accent. It came off more awkward than threatening at times which was an annoying distraction. It’s also a shame that the great Paul Giamatti as Nilo was reduced down to such a forgettable character, and his attempted German accent was nothing to brag about either. The filmmaker missed a big opportunity here to make something great with their roles.
The additional CGI villains, like the cursed explorers from the past, and Frank’s pet leopard were mediocre flashes of entertainment as well, but not much and won’t be remembered for too long. However, the action in the film was fantastic given the set design. Seeing one boat chase another down narrow rivers streams with torpedoes and machine guns did elevate this journey. There are films released in the past with similar structures to their characters, so Jungle Cruise isn’t breaking the mold with something entirely new. However, it still has enough to stand on its own as a fun ride that you won’t find anywhere else thanks to Dwyane Johnson and Emily Blunt in front of the charge.