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Jungle Cruise – Review – Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson Keep The Big Budget Film Afloat

July 27, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade – B-  – Jungle Cruise is a big budget Disney oddity that plays like The Pirates of the Caribbean, met The Mummy, and they teamed up with National Treasure, The African Queen, and The Rundown to form a supergroup. Normally comparing a movie to others feels a bit reductive, but one can’t help drawing comparisons. In the end, it’s worth watching because of Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, The Commuter, Non-Stop), and starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall and Jesse Plemons, this $200 million budgeted adaptation of the popular Disney ride is a sight to behold. The producers clearly want to capitalize on the past success of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, so they’re back with another tale about treasure, supernatural shenanigans, and boats. You can’t help but be impressed by the immense scale of the film, as it’s loaded with 1000+VFX shots, massive sets, and an A-list cast who are totally committed, and very engaging. The screenplay by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa and Michael Green (John Norville and Josh Goldstein received story credits) is welcomely bonkers, as it offers up healthy doses of sass, twists, and enough plot to send the film pinballing all over various jungles, caves, and rivers. . 

Jungle Cruise focuses on the hunt to find the Tree of Life, which is located deep in an unnamed jungle (hence the cruise), and possesses healing powers that can benefit all of mankind (or be used by evil Germans). Hunting for the Tree of Life are British scientist Dr. Lily “Pants” Houghton (Blunt), and her brother MacGregor (Whitehall), who hire steamboat captain Frank “Skipper” Wolff, to take them up the river in hopes of finding the mythical tree. Making their already treacherous journey more difficult, is the fact that they’re being followed by Prince Joachim (Plemons), a German maniac, who Lily stole a valuable artifact from, which oddly enough results in Joachim murdering a bunch of English scientists (the movie is quite violent). From there, it’s a race against time as the two groups battle whitewater rapids, piranhas, and angry “undead” conquistadors who also want to find the Tree of Life. 

Jungle Cruise works because of Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. The two know exactly what movie they are in, and seem to have a blast trading bad puns, verbal barbs, engaging in action scenes, and wearing pants. The incredible amount of sass between them does get a tad stale, but you get the feeling that the two are equals, and because they are wildly stubborn, they won’t give up the fight. If you are a fan of Jesse Plemons, the film is worth watching because he puts on a wild German accent, and has no problem unloading thousands of bullets (that come from his submarine) in public spaces as he hunts down his rivals. His villainous character is super cheeky, but he also murders a bunch of people, which creates a weird dynamic in the PG-13 film, as bodies fall all over the place in bloodless moments of violence.

In the end, Jungle Cruise is worth watching because of how unique it all is. There are recurring gags involving face punches, then, there are bonkers supernatural plotlines, CGI cats, and Paul Giamatti using a wild Italian(?) accent that comes and goes (that’s part of the joke). Also, there is a moment involving copious sexual innuendo that feels out of place in the Diseny movie, but, since it’s so random, the oddness is welcome. The movie is nowhere as good as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Blake Pearl, or National Treasure, but there is enough there to make it worthwhile. Also, anything with Blunt and Johnson being charming isn’t all bad. 

Final thoughtsJungle Cruise is a pleasant journey, and if you enjoy Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson, you should check it out.

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