by Julian Spivey
Director: Juame Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt & Jack Whitehall
Runtime: 2 hours & 7 minutes
Who knew a movie based off a ride at Disney World could be so much fun?
Just hearing a movie is based off an amusement park ride makes me skeptical from the start but watching the promos for Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” had me intrigued enough to want to watch it thinking it could be something of a modern day “The African Queen.”
Well, Dwayne Johnson certainly isn’t Humphrey Bogart, but “Jungle Cruise” is a lot of fun and isn’t that ultimately what we want from a Disney adventure film?
The film begins in the mid-1500s when Don Aguirre (played by Edgar Ramirez) leads a group of Spanish conquistadors to the Amazon of South America in search of a mythical tree which blooms flowers that can cure illness and heal injuries among other things.
We’re quickly brought forward to 1916 London where Dr. Lily Houghton (played by Emily Blunt) is having her research of this mythical tree being presented by her brother MacGregor (played by Jack Whitehall) to an elite society because he’s male and she’s not, but they basically laugh him out of the room. This leads her to stealing an important artifact she believes will help her find the mythical tree from under the nose of a German Prince (played by Jesse Plemons), who wants it to help his country win World War I and rule the world.
Lily and MacGregor end up in Brazil where the meet Frank (played by Johnson), the steamboat captain of a jungle cruise ship on the Amazon River that has some similarities personality wise to Bogart’s Charlie Allnut from John Huston’s classic 1951 film “The African Queen,” but with the physique of a professional wrestler.
I must admit this is the first movie I’ve ever seen featuring Johnson (other than a quick cameo in the comedy “The Other Ones,” because most of his films seem like mindless action flicks or comedies), but I was rather pleased with his performance – though it doesn’t ask a whole lot of him but to crack some corny jokes and be a masculine figure. The character building in “Jungle Cruise” isn’t really what this film is about. It’s the adventure that matters and the flick, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, does a fine job at keeping your attention for its two hour run-time.
There’s a nice little twist to “Jungle Cruise” a bit past halfway through that I won’t spoil for viewers, but I did not see coming. I don’t know that the twist truly adds a whole lot to the plot or the overall enjoyment of the film, but props for having me not see it coming.
The chemistry between Johnson and Blunt is nice in a buddy film kind of way, but, of course, the film adds a romantic element to it – kind of late in the film, though you pretty much always expect it, especially from Disney. This element wasn’t necessary, but again doesn’t really hurt anything.
It’s a fun film to watch with your family and I truly don’t think Disney does a whole lot of that these days that isn’t in the animation variety, so it’s a welcome addition. You can see “Jungle Cruise” in theaters or through Disney+’s premiere access via $29.99.