Jungle Cruise Review

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: In 1917, a plucky British scientist (Emily Blunt) hires a riverboat captain (Dwayne Johnson) to take her and her brother (Jack Whitehall) through the jungle to try and discover a mythical tree of life she wants to use to advance medicine. Meanwhile, a German aristocrat (Jesse Plemons) has more nefarious intentions.

REVIEW: With Jungle Cruise, Disney, director Jaume Collet-Serra and The Rock try to bring back the days of high adventure by adapting the famous Disneyland ride into a flick that would do Indiana Jones proud. Well, that was probably the goal anyway. Still, the finished product plays out a little more like an Indy clone from the eighties, particularly Cannon's King Solomon's Mines with its constant wisecracking and campy villains. I know that probably reads like a bad thing, but it's not. I kind of love King Solomon's Mines (even though I'm sure Sharon Stone leaves it off her filmography).

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays a skipper that's meant to pay homage to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, but to me is more reminiscent of Baloo in TaleSpin. He's a wisecracking swindler who runs scams on local tourists while owing money to Paul Giamatti's lavishly accented Nilo Nemolato. Of course, when Emily Blunt's botanist shows up with deep pockets, he pulls a Tom Selleck in High Road to China and takes them on their trip, but being as this is a Disney movie starring The Rock, you have to know there's more to him than he lets on originally.

It adds up to a fun if unexceptional adventure, hampered by a second-half that's a little too transparent in its efforts to become another Pirates of the Caribbean. It was more fun when it was somewhat earthbound, although even before we get to ghost mercenaries and creatures, we have The Rock wrestling with a CGI jaguar. One feels nostalgic for the eighties when all you needed were a couple of stars with good chemistry and some earthbound thrillers to make one heck of an adventure movie (see Romancing the Stone). Remember the monkey swinging scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? This whole movie is like that.

The Rock and Emily Blunt do indeed have good chemistry, but as usual, with Johnson's movies, any hint of romance is toned way down to the point that it's almost non-existent untill pretty much the very end. It's as if he decided his audience doesn't want to see him fall in love, so he tends to get pretty under-baked romances (such as in Hobbs & Shaw). He has to be the most chaste action hero of all time. Even still, The Rock looks cool as the musclebound riverboat captain, although Blunt seems to be having more fun as the action-loving botanist.

Jack Whitehall is along as the obligatory comic relief, with him playing Blunt's goofy brother – but the real scene-stealer has got to be Jesse Plemons. Seemingly channeling Ronald Lacey in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he devours scenery as the main baddie, but, given how good he is – it's a sin how limited his screen time is until the finale. Edgar Ramirez also shows up in a role I won't spoil, but he gets the chance to spar with The Rock a few times in some CGI-heavy scraps.

Probably the element I liked most about Jungle Cruise is the old-fashioned adventure score by James Newton Howard. However, I'm not sure about the choice to use an orchestral version of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" during the big flashback scene.

While Jungle Cruise is no Romancing the Stone/Jewel of the Nile (or even High Road to China and definitely not The Mummy), it's not a bad little adventure film, which should please its intended family audience. That said, I wish Dwayne Johnson would be a little more willing to stretch his screen image a bit lest his roles become indistinguishable. I think we're at the point now where The Rock plays The Rock – but hopefully, with Black Adam, he'll mix it up a bit as he's more than capable.

Jungle Cruise



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Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.