After the billion dollar success of the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, Disney attempt to set sail on another theme park ride-inspired adaptation with Jungle Cruise.
One might legitimately wonder how they have made a movie out of a rather pedestrian ride that takes you up river to see the sights and sounds of the Amazon… not the warehouses mind.
Well, very similar to the Pirates model, it is merely the jumping off point for a larger adventure story. Not only does it draw on elements from those movies (heroes being hunted by a group of cursed supernatural villains) but it also draws heavily upon the 1999 film The Mummy. With the opening act an almost beat-for-beat reenactment of that movie.
An intellectual female academic with foppish brother finds an artefact that could unlock the mystery behind an ancient curse employ the services handsome, rugged adventurer to guide them on their journey,.
The introduction to Dwayne Johnson’s skipper Frank is a nice nod to the original ride (essentially putting on a show for tourists) as he oozes movie star charisma and drops more puns than anchors. His roguish manner is at odds with Emily Blunt’s fiercely independent Lily Houghton but she needs him as he is the only one who can get them up river. You could say that she literally finds herself between The Rock and a hard place.
Look, anyone who is anyone who has seen movies will know that opposites attract and they will eventually fall for each other. The course of true love never runs smooth and they will face obstacles such as treacherous rapids, supernatural Conquistadors and “ze Germans” led by Prince Joachim (played with zany relish by Jesse Plemons).
The film wears its inspirations on its bulging bicep-filled sleeves. Everything from the Indiana Jones films to The African Queen and Romancing The Stone. Or should that be Romancing The Rock?
It is a movie that is not trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead it harks back to a simpler time in Hollywood when they delivered a simple, old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing, entertaining ride. Albeit it one with a few minor flaws.
The various character’s motivations for wanting the mystical Tears of the Moon flower are sketchy at best; Jack Whitehall’s performance is a little one note (but let’s face it, it could have been worse. It could have been James Corden) and despite setting the bar for CGI motion capture performances with Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones, Disney’s supernatural Conquistadors feel rushed and unfinished.
Ultimately those minor quibbles are outshone by the star power wattage generated by Johnson and Blunt. If Johnson is still the Most Electrifying Man In Entertainment, then Emily Blunt is a superconductor. On paper it might not seem like a natural fit but the two spark off each other so well, it is impossible not to get swept along with their adventure.
Following a year when foreign travel has come to a standstill, particularly by cruise ship, Jungle Cruise is one trip that is definitely worth booking this Summer.
Jungle Cruise is in cinemas and on Premier Access with Disney+ from July 30th
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti
Runtime: 127 minutes