Disney has a decent track record bringing their rides into cinema. You have the entire Pirates of the Caribbean series and the Haunted Mansion film. There are some other examples you can call from, but this film follows in that Pirates mold. Watching the trailer, you also get some major Indiana Jones vibes from it. After all, we’re in the same time period, and we have some supernatural goings-on. But does Jungle Cruise live up to those lofty expectations? Is it a fun film? Are you going to be satisfied?
Mostly, yes. It doesn’t reach up to the same quality as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, that’s the shining example of how to make a movie based on a ride. The Indiana Jones series is also a bit of a lofty expectation for this film as well. While it won’t be as culturally relevant as that series, this one will surely spawn a series of its own. So for the people reading the first couple paragraphs, this one is definitely worth your watch. It’s a film to head back to the theater to see.
With some great character work by Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Edgar Ramirez, and Jesse Plemons and an overall tone of the ride it’s based on, Jungle Cruise just simply, works. Let’s start off with the cast.
Chemistry Between All The Principle Actors Is The Major Highlight
You’d think that the two main actors in the film: Blunt and Johnson, would at least have some great chemistry. Not only do they have comedic timing, chemistry, and that extra bit of movie magic together, but Jack Whitehall and Dwayne Johnson might have a better bit of chemistry than anyone in the film. The scenes they share are some of the funniest and in one case, the most touching of all them.
The trio of Lily (Blunt), Frank (Johnson), and MacGregor (Whitehall) are the crux of the entire movie. If they didn’t work well together, this would be a much worse off film. Blunt’s performance in particular follows the line between completely in control and completely out of control. They’re going through the jungle and everything wants to kill them. You need just a bit of curiosity and caution from Lily in the film, and Blunt gives her that edge. She’s brilliant, strong, and crafty. Lily holds her own on screen and in the action scenes across from the hulking Frank.
The movie would be nothing without a good villain however. Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim and Edgar Ramirez as Aguirre share that title, with Aguirre having a much more tragic backstory than Joachim being the evil tyrant bent on dominating the world forever. Some of the funniest scenes involve Plemons and it’s easy to see why he’s so in-demand in Hollywood. (Go check out Game Night to see him at his absolute best).
The only actor who is wasted a bit is Paul Giamatti. His role as Nilo is sort of a red herring to the other villains in the film. He’s played off more for laughs than anything and he’s not in the film very long. It looks like the cast had an absolute blast with one another making this movie and that translates to their performances on screen.
How Is The Story They Crafted For Jungle Cruise?
Jungle Cruise doesn’t have a super complex plot. If you can understand how pirates are coming back from the dead in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, you can understand the goings-on in Jungle Cruise. Without spoiling anything, the plot centers on getting a piece of this mythical tree that’s out in the desert. Natives have used this tree to cure ailments and diseases for generations. Lily Houghton is searching for this plant and needs someone to get her through the jungle to it. It turns out that Prince Joachim of Germany is also searching for it and brings a submarine with him.
There’s some supernatural twists and turns with flashbacks to the past, but it all really works in the end. It make sense and the plot keeps you invested in the movie as an audience. The one detractor from the film is the final relationship between Lily and Frank, and how it plays out. From a motivation standpoint, it doesn’t really make sense, and there’s an extra “deus ex machina” moment that explains away a somewhat selfish decision made by Lily at the end of the film.
Outside of that though, the plot and the beats that follow along make a good amount of sense and work to keep the film going along. There isn’t a whole lot of wasted time and you leave the story feeling fulfilled, mostly.
A Franchise This Way Comes
We should hopefully get more from these characters. Whether that’s a side adventure or just a full blown sequel. Like Indiana Jones, Lily and Frank can always go hunting for more artifacts out there. If that’s the case, Disney has a hit on their hands.
For fans of the ride, especially the Disneyland version, you won’t be disappointed here either. There’s a full 5 minute section that is just a tribute to the ride that the film is based on. The filmmakers didn’t need to add this wrinkle to the film, but it makes it a more comedic and enjoyable experience with the scene. It fleshes out Frank’s character early on and helps with his development later.
Overall, Jungle Cruise doesn’t quite reach an upper-tier adventure/action film, but it does do a great job of giving audiences a fun and thrilling experience. The comedy works, the chemistry between the three main characters works, and it is just simply an enjoyable film.
Check out Jungle Cruise on Disney+ Premiere Access or in theaters this July 30th, 2021.