Originally due to be released back in July 2020, Jungle Cruise is yet another blockbuster movie that should have been and gone a long time ago. But, thanks to Covid, it now finds itself being released simultaneously both in cinemas and on Disney+ via premier access. Based on the Disneyland theme park ride of the same name, Jungle Cruise stars two of Hollywoods biggest and most likeable stars, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and turns out to be an enjoyable mix of numerous other movies from yesteryear.
Introducing us to the main plot of the movie is MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall). It’s 1916, and at the Royal Geographic Society he is currently presenting to the all-male group of society members about the healing powers of an Amazonian blossom that’s known as the ‘Tears of the Moon’. As MacGregor narrates, we watch a flashback to those who have previously tried and failed to find it, and the curse that befell them.
Watching on from the back is MacGregor’s sister, Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who is mouthing along to every word that her brother speaks. She knows the words because it was actually her that wrote them, and even read them out to that same group of people previously. But because she is merely a woman, she wasn’t taken seriously. Although, right now her brother isn’t exactly wowing them either as he stumbles with some of the words.
While MacGregor does his best to continue, Lily begins sneaking around the back rooms where numerous artefacts are kept and examined. She is searching for an ancient arrowhead that apparently holds the key to finding the location of the Tears of the Moon. She finds it, manages to steal it and then quickly makes her escape, just as the staff realise that it is missing. It’s clear that the male chauvinists at the society have underestimated Dr Houghton as she skillfully evades capture before falling from the window of the building and into a passing open-top bus. German aristocrat Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) is also visiting the society and is due to be shown the arrowhead, so he is very displeased to learn that it has just been stolen!
And then we meet Frank “Skipper” Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), captain of an Amazon riverboat that’s seen better days. Frank is currently taking a bunch of tourists out on a tour of the river, taking them past a number of fake attractions that he’s rigged up beforehand in order to try and ramp up the excitement of the trip. He also has a routine of corny puns to unleash on the group, gags that you’ll already be familiar with if you’ve ever taken the Jungle Cruise theme park ride.
Arriving in Brazil, Lily and MacGregor hire Frank and his boat to take them in search of the legendary blossom, but are being closely followed by a crazed Joachim, who now rises from the waters in a submarine before firing off a machine gun in a desperate bid to take possession of the arrowhead and be the first to the Tears of the Moon. The race, and chase, is now on!
Watching Jungle Cruise, you’ll be reminded of so many other movies. Pirates of the Caribbean, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone, The Mummy… and while it may not necessarily be better than any of those, it certainly has a familiar and comforting feel to it that should appeal to families and film fans of all ages. As it begins veering into supernatural territory, dealing with the curse that was placed upon the conquistadors who tried to obtain the blossom for themselves some four hundred years earlier, it does struggle at times and the CGI isn’t always so great. However, it’s all thanks to its two stars that everything holds together, delivering an entertaining adventure.
However, if you’re not a fan of Jack Whitehall, then you’ll need to deduct a point or two off of my review score, as he’s a prominent character and the origin of much of the movie’s humour. Personally, I am a fan of his and felt that his character and performance came across like an exaggerated combination of both him and his father from his Netflix show Travels with my Father. Something I didn’t mind at all.
It’s interesting looking back on our TrailerChat discussions when the second trailer for Jungle Cruise was released back in March 2020. There were comments regarding its originality and influences, but most of us thought it looked fun all the same, the inclusion of Johnson and Blunt being a plus point. Deb actually pointed out that while the pair appeared to have great chemistry in their promotion of the movie, that chemistry didn’t seem to come across in what little we’d seen from the trailer, which was an interesting point. The pair are great together on screen, bickering and fighting for much of their adventure, but it’s when romance begins to blossom that it all just doesn’t feel believable. I do love Dwayne Johnson, but he just doesn’t seem to do romance that well.
As much as I enjoyed Jungle Cruise, sequels to movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy didn’t really fare so well, so news that talks are underway for a Jungle Cruise sequel does worry me slightly. If it does go ahead, they’ll hopefully double down on the adventure, be less concerned about the romance side of things and prove that a sequel can actually be better.
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Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.