Jungle Cruise (2021) Review

So I saw Jungle Cruise on Saturday and I have to say that I enjoyed it. It’s a fun ride and a swashbuckling adventure film reminiscent of other Disney ride-based movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and adventure films like The Mummy (1999). For those that don’t know,  Jungle Cruise is a film produced by Walt Disney Studios based on the Disney ride of the same name. The film stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Frank Wolff, Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton, Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton, Jeese Plemons as Prince Joachim, and Edgar Ramírez as Aguirre.

The film is set in 1916 during the First World War and is about Frank, Lily, and MacGregor’s search for the mythical Tears of The Moon in the Amazon Jungle. The film follows their adventure, their developing rocky relationship, and their attempts to get there before Prince Joachim and the cursed group of Aguirre and his conquistadors. The film uses this set-up and formula to eventually start getting more complex and compelling as it goes on. It’s a formulaic film, but it uses the formula to do some interesting things, especially with the main characters. I think that’s one of the things that is a strength to the film, that because the ride doesn’t really have a story to it, it allowed the filmmakers to do whatever they wanted with the story and the characters, they just had to make sure there was a skipper, who pilots a boat through a jungle.

For this film I’m going to avoid spoilers as much as possible as I feel like knowing too much about the story and the characters would affect the film experience, especially as there’s some stuff in the film that I was not expecting and I’m glad I went in with no preconceptions or knowledge about the film. 

Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff is the male lead of the film. He’s the river cruise captain and is a bit of an anti-hero throughout the film as he’s a bit of a scam artist and l think that’s an interesting way to take his character. He has an interesting arc throughout the film of learning to trust people, as his current situation was in a way caused by one of the last people he trusted. He’s definitely the Jack Sparrow or Rick O’ Connell of the film, but I don’t know if he’s as fun as those characters. I think it could be that he doesn’t have the swagger of Sparrow, or the super charm of O’Connell. He’s still a fun and charming character, but just not as much as the others. The Rock gives a good performance in this film, he’s good in this role. Then again the role was pretty much written to his strengths as an actor. He still does a good job though. Although it’s kind of funny that this is I think the second time The Rock plays a Brenden Fraser style character (first was Journey 2 The Mysterious Island).

Emily Blunt as Lily Houghton is the female lead of the film as well as the protagonist. She’s the one who gets the film going and drives the plot forward. She’s an interesting character as she kind of serves the intelligent love interest role for the film, but she’s also more action oriented vs Evelyn from The Mummy who wasn’t as action capable in the first film as Lily is. She also drives a lot of the action scenes throughout the film. She’s a fun character with some good moments throughout the film. I think my biggest issue with the film is her romance with Frank, as they primarily get into fights throughout the film, they maybe could have used more relaxed scenes together to really set up their relationship and her choice at the end of the film. Other than that she’s fun. Her performance is pretty good and fits her character well. 

Jack Whitehall as MacGregor is the brother of Lily and is the meek, spoiled, and kind of cowardly character in the film. He doesn’t like adventuring and would rather stay in a hotel instead of traveling the amazon river. He serves as the comedic relief character throughout the film, where most of the comedy comes from. He has a pretty good character arc throughout the film as it’s about him opening up and becoming more proactive and being true to himself, as well as being more confident. Especially with him revealing that he doesn’t go the way society deems proper. He’s most similar to Jonathan from The Mummy as they both serve similar roles and are the comic relief of the film. 

Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim is the main villain of the film, he is a german royal figure that wants to get the group and find the tree to use it’s power to win the war for Germany. He’s actually a fun villain playing a good rival to the main trio as he kind of takes up the same roles as Lily and MacGregor. He is smart and intelligent, but also proper and doesn’t really get his hands dirty much, but will when he has to. I do enjoy him in the film as he is a part of the film throughout and he brings some interesting dangers, as his knowledge of the myths of the area brings about the other set of villains. I think a lot of the fun with him is how much he believes the myths and all the stuff surrounding it while everyone around him kind of thinks he’s nuts. There’s a sequence in the film where he’s getting information from one of the other villains through way of a bee, while his men don’t believe it. His performance is good and he’s good in the film.

Lastly is Edgar Ramírez as Aguirre, who serves as the secondary villain of the film, as well as the rival for Frank. I’m including the rest of the conquistadors in this part as they are with him and he does the most out of them in the film. They’re the cool CG cursed villains, kind of like Imhotep from The Mummy or the Black Pearl crew from Curse of the Black Pearl. Each on has cool abilities and their past is one of the more interesting things in the film as it also has to do with Frank and leads to one of my favourite sequences in the film. Their performances are good, but they’re mostly CG throughout the film. 

The film is well paced, it didn’t feel too long or too short. The effects were good for the most part, the conquistadors suffer the most from it but it’s still good for the most part. The action is pretty good, mostly standard fair for this kind of movie, same with the fight scenes. Nothing too much to write home about in that area. The production design is all good, everything sells the time period and the location. The stand out is the boat as it looks beat-up and really sells just how old it truly is. It also includes a fun part of the film at the beginning when Frank takes a tour group essentially through the Disney Ride.

I think one of the best parts of the movie though is the music. The score for the most part is good and accentuates the calmer parts as well as the more epic or emotional parts. But my favourite part is that it uses Nothing Else Matters at a couple points in the film. The second time its used is during my favourite sequence, which is a flashback that shows what happened all those years ago. It’s emotional and the music builds from this softer and slower feeling, and leads to this epic bombastic orchastra cover as the big secret is revealed. 

Over-all I had fun with the film. It’s a good movie to watch with the family with a lot of fun action and moments, as well as some surprising twists and turns. It’s a fun ride and a call-back to movies of a by-gone era. 2 Thumbs up ! Watch it in the theatres, or wait till it’s fully out on Disney plus.

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