Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall and Jesse Plemons
It’s strange that there is a sub-genre of Disney films based on their theme park rides. Most of them have been pretty good as well. The first Pirates of the Caribbean is genuinely a good film, even if the later ones aren’t. The Haunted Mansion is a decent, funny film. Their latest offering Jungle Cruise keeps up this trend with one of the better Disney live-action films in a long time.
In a timely manner there is a Disney Plus documentary series called Behind the Attraction, which was released recently. The first episode goes deep into the history of the Jungle Cruise ride, where it came from, why it was so important to Walt Disney, and gives some context for the film. It’s not essential watching, but it’s enjoyable and interesting enough and it does add another layer onto the film. Scattered throughout the film is a lot of puns/dad jokes and some of these are lifted straight out of the script that skippers will read to you on the theme park ride. That’s a nice touch and something that the documentary helps with.
The skipper in the actual film is Captain Frank Wolff, played by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (The Mummy Returns, Fast & Furious), and when we first meet him he’s taking a group of tourists on a ride around the Amazon river in a style that is very reminiscent of the theme park ride. He is then hired by siblings Lily (Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns) and McGregor (Jack Whitehall, Asterix: The Mansion of the Gods) to travel further into the river and jungle, to find the Tears of the Moon, tree petals that can cure anything.
Jungle Cruise is a fun, family action adventure. It’s a mix of The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean with a little Indiana Jones, Star Wars and even Fast & Furious mixed in for good luck. There is a moment early in the film where they are being chased by a submarine and shot at by torpedoes and in a way that only The Rock can, he manages to escape it. Not quite by pushing it away such as in F&F 8, but by equally insane antics.
The best thing about Jungle Cruise is the characters. The whole cast is on top form here and the interplay between Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson and Jack Whitehall is superb. The moments when they are on the boat, mocking each other and adventuring are highlights. The action is also great and all three don’t pull any punches, literally. There is also Prince Joachim, played by Jessie Plemons (Breaking Bad), the German aristocrat who is also hunting the Tears of the Moon. He’s unhinged, eating peas with the back of his fork and communicating with bees. The whole cast is brilliant and bring a lot of the humour.
The whole film looks spectacular with some great sets and effects. At this point it would be unacceptable for any Disney Film to look bad, and this one certainly doesn’t. It’s a beautiful film with clear shots for the action so you always know what’s going on. The music is also brilliant, by James Newton Howard with a very John Williams reminiscent score. There’s even a full orchestral version of Nothing Else Matters by Metallica to open the film, which is revisited later with a full blown metal instrumental version.
While the film is quite long and the boat does lose steam towards the end, Jungle Cruise is a fun a thrilling adventure that is sure to delight entire families. The performances are great, the jokes land, the action is thrilling. This is the family action-adventure film of the generation.