Walt Disney initially envisioned the Jungle Cruise Disneyland ride to help expose patrons to sights and sounds that you wouldn’t otherwise witness without leaving the country. The Jungle Cruise movie is no different, helping audiences embark on an adventure through the rivers of the Amazon, without ever needing to leave their seat.
In the film, inspired by the theme park ride, we follow brother and sister MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) and Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who both recruit skipper, Frank (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) to help them on their mission to find the Tree of Life, rumoured to have healing properties that could benefit modern medicine.
Emily Blunt is an incredible actress; she is so impressive and versatile at everything she does. It is also hard to deny the appeal of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, as he is very likable and charismatic, however, the chemistry between the two requires a lot more convincing, at least, from a romantic perspective. Although the pair do have a natural chemistry on-screen, especially when they are exchanging sassy remarks, I did feel that the chemistry between Johnson and Blunt was more of a comradery rather than in a romantic notion. The romance felt very awkward, if not a bit forced. This is a minor complaint though.
When as a trio, including Jack Whitehall’s character MacGregor, the three work really well together, Whitehall being perfectly cast for the role. His exchanges with Blunt on-screen had a very convincing and believable brother-sister dynamic. Whitehall is fantastic in his role; it is a shame that he didn’t have more screen time.
The visuals are impressive (including the costuming) and provided a setting and mood reminiscent to films such as National Treasure, Indiana Jones and The African Queen. I appreciated the choice of having Lily dress in pants, which together with her feisty strong character, gave off feminist vibes; a wonderful decision, especially considering the period that the film is set in, when women were not given equal opportunity and respect (although, now that I think about it, we still have a long way to go).
I didn’t mind the CGI either, but what I did mind was that there were so many villains in the film, to the point that it was hard to keep track of. And because there were so many, it didn’t provide enough time for their growth either. Unfortunately, they were all two-dimensional and I don’t even remember their names. Admittedly, my heart sank when I saw the design of some of the characters too, reminding me of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which lead to the question, “Is Jungle Cruise in the same universe as Pirates of the Caribbean?”, we don’t know. But I was under the impression that Jungle Cruise had its own identity. Fortunately, there is enough character development with our protagonists to carry the film across the finish line and still be an enjoyable experience.
Jungle Cruise is a fun and entertaining fantasy film that respectfully pays tribute to the Disneyland ride that it is inspired by, right down to the punny dad jokes. It even makes me want to try out the Jungle Cruise ride in Disneyland someday. So, if you’re looking for a movie that will help temporarily satisfy your wanderlust while international travel is still off the cards, or even just something that will entertain the whole family, then this is the movie for you.