What do you get when you take elements of Pirates of the Caribbean, a dash of The Mummy films, a pinch of Indiana Jones and just a sprinkle of The African Queen?
The answer is a whole lot of fun!
Jungle Cruise follows the adventures of Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) as she is on a quest to the Amazon in search of a magic tree whose flowers can cure any disease imaginable. With her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) at her side, she steals an arrowhead in London that will guide her on her adventure. When she arrives in the Amazon, she hires a boat captain named Frank (Dwayne Johnson) to guide her down the river, although Frank only cares about one thing – himself. As our heroes get closer and closer to their destination, secrets are revealed, pasts are uncovered and most importantly, adventure awaits.
Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson have absolutely electric chemistry. They come across as a couple who are always bickering and arguing, but work together when danger is around the corner. I love the rat-a-tat insults that they fire at one another, as well as their condescending nicknames of Pants and Skippy, as it is petty enough that it would get underneath your skin too. Every moment they are together on screen, there is an energy to the film that is undeniable. I really hope they do make another Jungle Cruise film as they are just so much fun to watch.
This is just a personal preference, but I love dad jokes and corny puns, so I was delighted when Frank makes his first appearance on screen giving a riverboat tour and all he is doing is telling bad jokes. It is persistent, he never gives up, and the tourists in the scene represented the audience that I saw the film with (not impressed), but I adored it and was happy that it continued throughout the film, although the screenwriters were smart to not overkill it.
I also have to give credit to the filmmakers for having an openly gay character in the film, which is not something that Disney usually does in its big budget blockbusters. Yes, Beauty and the Beast makes a passing mention of Le Fou being gay, but in Jungle Cruise, MacGregor gives a speech about how he was ostracized by his family and society in England because of his sexual preference, but states that he would go to the ends of the Earth for his sister Lily, as she always stood by his side. Then, it is never brought up again. It is progress to include this scene in a Disney film and hopefully we will hit a point where a gay character is the main focus of a Disney blockbuster.
I also enjoyed the cinematography and I must say that certain sequences and images were absolutely beautiful, with recognition going to the shots that involved the Tears of the Moon. I just loved how the image popped in those scenes.
Now onto the things that I did not love about Jungle Cruise.
The action sequences were hard to follow as they were edited a bit too quickly for my liking and I noticed the camera seemed to be always moving during these sequences, which gave me problems as I could not focus or figure out what was happening on screen at times. The scenes in question for me were the chase in the market and the nighttime action sequences in the jungle.
I also have to give kudos to the casting director, for getting Edgar Ramirez, Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti involved in this film. Unfortunately, their talents are not utilized to their fullest. They are actually the movie’s three antagonists (Giamatti’s character is not really in it very much, so we’ll knock it down to two). Plemons character gets to chew scenery, but he is played more for laughs than anything else, while Ramirez’s character is more threatening, but not as entertaining. I just wasn’t engaged when they were on the screen. Again, all three are great actors, but it just didn’t work for me this time.
Which leads me to the plot. As stated earlier, Jungle Cruise has tons of charm and chemistry between its two leads, but its plot is something I just didn’t care for, as it had been done in other films (most notably for me Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl). The story is not boring, but certain plot points simply weren’t engaging (which I won’t say because of spoilers), which leads me to an interesting decision the filmmakers made when it came to music.
Jungle Cruise is set in 1916, so we’ll say it has a score that is appropriate for an adventure film. Around the midway point, we get a flashback sequence that is filled with heavy rock music, which I fully admit, I really liked, but it took me out of the film because I kept thinking to myself that the song sounded awfully familiar. For the rest of the film, I kept wondering what it was and it was not until the end credits came up that it I discovered it was a new version of Metallica’s “Nothing Really Matters” that played in that sequence. It was apparently also used earlier in the film based on the soundtrack listing, but I missed it. I really liked the music, but it really did not fit the film’s tone for me, especially during the flashback scene in question. I have nothing against modern music being included in period pictures, but this time, for me it was a miss. I do recommend you having a listen to it, which you can do by clicking below:
At the end of the day, I was won over by the performances of Blunt and Johnson and Jungle Cruise felt like a throwback movie to when I was growing up, where I loved watching adventure films for the jokes, chemistry and thrills that those films provided. At the end of the day, it was refreshing to watch Jungle Cruise, because it reminded me of why I love movies. The film does not take itself too seriously (unlike some other blockbuster films this summer) and therefore we are in on the jokes and along for the ride. I do hope we get to see a second Jungle Cruise film, just so we can see the further adventures of Pants and Skippy!