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Jungle Cruise – Movie Review

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Jungle Cruise – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Disney’s Jungle Cruise ride at its theme parks owes a debt to the classic adventure films of the time, with The African Queen serving as a particular influence. Thus, it’s fitting it would become the latest attraction to be turned into a movie. Director Jaume Collet-Serra turns the film adaptation into a rousing old-school adventure as the characters venture down the Amazon and take part in impressive stunts. Even with modern special effects, he embraces the period setting and one can easily imagine this script being used on the MGM lot back in the day. Thanks to winning chemistry from the leads, Jungle Cruise has the right amount of summertime entertainment.

It doesn’t take long to see the influences on Jungle Cruise. In addition to the obvious African Queen connection, one can sense the DNA of classic Tarzan movies, the Indiana Jones series and The Mummy (the one with Brendan Fraser). However, this certainly isn’t a bad thing as it shows Collet-Serra’s excitement at transporting the audience to another time and place. Appropriately, there are times when it feels like the characters are walking through Adventureland at the Disney theme parks. This is meant to be an artificial representation of the Amazon and that adds to its charm, as the filmmakers manage to convey the expected fantasy feel.

That the actors are game helps add to the illusion of Jungle Cruise. Dwayne Johnson finds the right level of charisma, cheekiness and sympathy in playing Skipper Frank. There are layers and details we learn throughout the film that really add to his character. Emily Blunt is delightful, too, as the scientist who is both excited about the journey she’s taking and out of her depth. Blunt and Johnson have some great banter back-and-forth and Jack Whitewall also provides plenty of laughs as her brother. He gets some humorous one-liners, but the filmmakers make sure he’s not just a one-joke character. His reactions to the predicaments that occur are varied and understandable. Meanwhile, Jesse Plemons is clearly enjoying himself as the main villain pursuing them.

The action sequences deliver the needed spectacle and fun. They are properly spaced out throughout the movie and feature strong choreography and the right adventurous spirit. A chase through a Brazilian port is a highlight, as is a rollicking ride over rapids. Even with the latest in special effects technology at his disposal, Collet-Serra doesn’t overdo things too much. James Newton Howard’s score also fits the playful and occasionally perilous tone of the action scenes. For fans of the original ride, there are quite a few delightful nods, primarily in Frank’s introductory scene. The film also attempts to rewrite a fixture of the ride that has been criticised for negative stereotypes and it’s a noble effort.

The original Jungle Cruise ride sought to give guests a bit of escapism and take them to a part of the world they would otherwise not visit. The film honours that intent along with the cinematic influences of the attraction. The filmmakers succeed in making something that aims to entertain an audience who wants to forget about the outside world for two hours. It’s an old-fashioned adventure yarn elevated by the actors who know exactly what film they’re in. The filmmakers don’t take things too seriously, while providing the occasional peril and scary moments to thrill a family audience.

Stefan Ellison

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