Disney’s Jungle Cruise attraction can currently be found at four theme park locations worldwide. Beginning this Friday, it can also be found in cinemas. Continuing the tradition of adapting theme park rides into feature length films (with varying results), Disney brings their popular river boat adventure to the big screen with Jungle Cruise. The movie succeeds in crafting a story that genuinely feels like an old school, classic adventure film. However, rather than being an homage to the golden age of cinema, Jungle Cruise comes off as a retreading of ideas that have already been done in better films.
What do you get when you take a ruggedly handsome loner and a beautiful, headstrong intellectual who don’t get along and force them to embark a perilous adventure? Well, when it’s done properly you get a solid hour and a half of quality entertainment. In Jungle Cruise we see Emily Blunt and the always charismatic Dwayne Johnson, butting heads as they battle their way through the jungle on a river boat. It’s a story as old as time. The African Queen gave us Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn bickering throughout a similar river bound adventure. And while Jungle Cruise certainly seems to draw inspiration from that 1951 classic, it fails to stay afloat and instead sinks into genre tropes and clichés.
Dwayne Johnson and action/adventure go hand in hand. The wrestler turned actor got his cinematic start in The Mummy Returns as The Scorpion King, a role he would play again in the stand alone film of the same name. He has the chiseled jaw line, the bulging muscles and the effortless charm that excites adrenaline junkies and stay at home moms alike. He’s a perfect leading man for this type of film. In Jungle Cruise, Johnson is at his best and showcases a precise comedic timing that equals the size of his biceps. Despite Johnson’s stature, Blunt is never over shadowed. Her portrayal of Dr. Lily Houghton, the intelligent, pants wearing scientist, is a shining point of the film. And the chemistry between the two leads helps to carry the predictable script forward. Jesse Plemons on the other hand, is criminally underused and swept into the role of a generic and uninteresting antagonist.
The colors are vibrant and the scenery is engaging, but the film’s over reliance on CGI backfires. The CGI is lackluster at its best and horrendous at its worst. The jungle animals look like they’re from the cut scene of a video game rather than a major summer blockbuster with a 200 million dollar budget. However, the poor CGI likely won’t make or break this film for audiences.
Jungle Cruise desperately wants to be more than it is. It strives to be a larger than life adventure worthy of its own franchise and memorabilia. While it certainly may accomplish those tasks, it never reaches the awe inspiring heights of the franchise that gave Johnson his start, The Mummy. Still, Jungle Cruise is a mildly fun, yet predictable, adventure that’s elevated by its likable leads. 6/10