The fitfully entertaining Jungle Cruise ultimately comes off as an uninspired mishmash of elements from better films.
Jungle Cruise ☆☆ 1/2
Staring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall,
Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
A problematic Disney theme park attraction has inspired a mediocre Disney movie in the form of Jungle Cruise, a familiar fantasy romp that channels the far more memorable Pirates of the Caribbean franchise by way of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, National Treasure, and a handful of other adventure flicks.
The derivative escapade finds a group of travellers making their way across the Amazon in search of a mythical tree, all while being pursued by a horde of baddies who want to find the tree for their own nefarious purposes.
With the First World War ongoing, British botanist Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) takes it upon herself to find the Tears of the Moon, a fabled tree, the flowers of which can heal all maladies. Hoping the discovery will revolutionize medicine, she makes her way to South America, her foppish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) reluctantly in tow, and hires the services of steamboat skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to help them cross the waters.
Making their arduous task even more difficult are threats from two sets of pursuers who also seek the magical plant. One is a team led by Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), a German villain who wants to use the tree to win the war. The other is a group of PotC-reminiscent hexed conquistadors who want to use the flowers to put an end to their curse.
It’s like a mishmash of worn-out tropes and borrowed ideas. Sure there is some fun to be had in the uneven world of Jungle Cruise and a reveal at one point that is somewhat (but not entirely) unexpected, but the film’s journey ultimately takes you, very dutifully, down a tired path that leads to a foregone conclusion.
Also not helping matters are the visual effects which range from distracting to downright unconvincing (like CGI jaguar Proxima who never looks even borderline real at any point).
Despite the weak storyline and dodgy digital effects, the cast mostly manages to keep things afloat. Blunt is wonderful, as always. Johnson, too, is an amicable screen presence, although there are times you might be left to wonder what a grittier, more dynamic performer could have brought to the role. And while Blunt and Johnson make a fun onscreen pairing, they don’t really have much romantic chemistry. Whitehall, on the other hand, is just woefully miscast, and unless he wants to be the next James Corden, he really ought to pick his projects/characters more carefully.
All in all, Jungle Cruise does occasionally entertain but ultimately lacks the imaginative flair that could have made it more exciting and memorable. From the looks of it, the Mouse House is clearly itching to build itself a Disney Ride Cinematic Universe (seeing how movies for Tower of Terror, Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and several other attractions are reportedly in the works), but for that to be a success, the studio would be wise to work with more imaginative creatives and hire better writers.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection