Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Edgar Ramírez, Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti
Run time: 2h 07min
Yet another theatrical victim of the Corona Virus pandemic, Jungle Cruise wrapped production almost three years ago and has been waiting patiently in the Mouse House to set sail out into the world. Well, it’s anchors away from Friday as it’s been granted a limited cinematic release as well as a home on Disney’s streaming service, Disney+.
It’s 1916, two years into the Great War, and Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), a botanical doctor, is scouring South America for an ancient tree whose leaves are filled with unparalleled healing properties and the power to change the world of medicine forever. However, she’s not the only one on the hunt for the mystical mangrove. Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) of Germany is determined to get his murderous mitts on them to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favour.
Lily’s joined by her pampered and entitled brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) and the pair stumble upon a man with the best / worst dad jokes since, well, my dad. Frank (Dwayne Johnson) is a wisecracking scoundrel running rigged river tours for naive tourists on his beat-up boat. Teaming up, the gang must navigate their way through the deceptively lush landscape where danger lurks around every bend whilst at the same time being pursued by the predatory Prince. The stakes are raised even higher as the past and the present collide meaning mankind’s very existence is threatened by dark, supernatural forces.
Reminiscent of many family favourites such as Jumanji, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Pirates of the Caribbean it also borrows heavily from Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy. Indeed, the three main characters have virtually been cut and paste from Stephen Sommers’s ancient Egyptian adventure. But it’s self-aware enough and directed with clear affection for the genre by Juame Collet-Serra. The action scenes are frequent and inventive, although at just over two hours it’s probably too long. There’s a slight dip during the middle that could easily have been ironed out. James Newton Howard’s score is suitably atmospheric and there’s even a superb interpretation of a Metallica song thrown into the mix.
Whilst it’s nothing we haven’t seen before from Johnson, his natural charisma and huge presence make him the perfect choice to carry this style of film on his massive shoulders. And he, of course, brings his star quality and comedic timing to the river in buckets. Not to be outdone, Emily Blunt also showcases her impressive action credentials mixing it up with intelligence and determination as she navigates the jungle rapids as well as a career in a predominantly man’s world.
Jack Whitehall, whose casting caused some controversy when it was first announced due to being a straight man in an apparently gay role, excels as the comedy sidekick and Jesse Plemons hams it up spectacularly in a pantomime performance that just about manages to work. A strong supporting cast featuring Paul Giamatti and Edgar Ramírez all have fun with what they’re given, but this is very much about the three leads.
Full of charm, action and old-school adventure, Jungle Cruise is a highly enjoyable romp for all the family to enjoy.
Jungle Cruise steams into select cinemas and on Disney+ (with Premier Access) on July 30th.