Jungle Cruise (Review): Better Than I Expected

Good ‘ol fashioned adventure movies never go out of style. I’m just glad to see Hollywood is making one not called “Indiana Jones”… All aboard for Disney’s latest adventure film based on a ride I went on when I was 4 (and don’t remember)!  

Jungle Cruise stars Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton: an adventurer (in the mold of Indiana Jones) hunting for a legendary cure-all medicine during the first world war. Said medicine, if replicated, would be instrumental to restoring peace! But Lily must contend with deceitful river boat Captain Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a dastardly German Prince (Jesse Plemons) and the ghosts of Spanish Conquistadors whilst surviving the Amazon River’s varied dangers.

On the whole, this was a fun movie! Many sequences even captured the feeling of being on a theme park ride (which I’m sure was intentional). As mentioned up top– I don’t recall riding the thing, but my mother felt that many aspects of the film were faithful to it– notably the corny jokes made by the skipper. Just like a theme park ride, you’re not gonna get much “substance” from the experience, but it’s exhilarating enough to alleviate boredom.

That said– Jungle Cruise could have been far more mindless than it was. I’m surprised that some actual effort went in to the story. And yes, thank you– I am becoming very jaded about “entertainment” films at my ripe old age of 23… But Jungle Cruise had a cool lore and story that, while not super original, felt fresh enough to me (and that’s not easy considering how many movies I watch).

All the actors’ performances were enjoyable! Emily Blunt is one of my favourite actresses working today, and Dwayne Johnson is charming as ever. ‘Twas hard to go wrong with either of them. Jesse Plemons ranks among the best character actors out there, and he seems to have fun with his villainous role. But the highlight was Jack Whitehall as MacGregor (Lily’s useless brother). Many will consider him an annoying character– and he certainly can be. Yet, when I later pondered the film, Whitehall’s performance stood out most strongly in my mind. MacGregor Houghton arguably earned the most character development, so that’s another factor in Whitehall’s favour (in terms of memorability that is).

My favourite aspect of Jungle Cruise was its set-design (both live and VFX)! From the jungle, to the boat, to London, each environment felt unique and lived-in. The environments were well-crafted and surprisingly well-varied for a movie mostly set in the jungle.  

Dwayne Johnson as Frank, having some fun on shore (Jungle Cruise)

OK– time for my complaints… First off: Jungle Cruise was decently paced but ran too long. There were a few too many sequences in there which padded the run-time and/ or provided more action but which didn’t move the plot forward.

Now for the action sequences: If you’re a regular reader of my articles you know that action is extremely hit or miss with me. This time *drum roll please* it was… OK. The fights seemed well-choreographed, the visual style feels original enough, and the sequences were largely fun. However, many shots are framed so tightly it’s hard to tell what’s happening, and the cutting is too fast. Maybe the intent was to make the viewer feel up close in the action and slightly disoriented, like the characters would be? But that style doesn’t work for me…

This criticism is lighter but worth mentioning: Jungle Cruise features a plethora of stock German villains. You’ve seen these guys in a million other movies. But at least they’re not Nazis, so the film gets some points there!

I only complain because the writer in me craves well-developed 3-dimensional bad-guys. Still– the average film-goer part of my brain knows the tone of Jungle Cruise aims for and may concede these antagonists as passable. It’s just that kind of movie. That’s OK sometimes.

That said: there’s irony in how hard Jungle Cruise goes out of its way break certain stereotypes (like burdensome female leads in adventure movies) yet plays squarely into others (like the Germans and homosexual men). That’s Disney for ya. I wasn’t offended by anything in the movie. ‘Twas just amusing to see.

Jungle Cruise also had a romance element, because of course… But I didn’t buy it. The chemistry seemed more friendly than relationship-y. Perhaps the romance would have come across better had it not factored so heavily into the ending. I didn’t believe the conclusion made sense because I didn’t believe in the romance.

Speaking of that ending: Jungle Cruise‘s whole last act was a mess! My problems with the sequence largely stem from the above complaint but there’s a bit more to my annoyance: namely, the ending breaks my “suspension of disbelief”– a big no-no in movies. It’s like Director Jaume Collet-Serra shot half the ending before Disney approached him to say “Hey man! You’re doing great work here… but we need you to change a few things in case we wanna make a sequel. Thanks. Bye. Love you.” I’m legitimately curious if there was another ending in mind at any point in the production process.

On top of my plot-concerns, there was a glaring continuity error… One of the main characters suffers an injury in the movie but the last act almost completely forgets about it. You could make an argument for adrenaline providing the ability to withstand the pain, or whatever, but it’s more likely an oversight by the crew. Whoops.

Jungle Cruise felt like a classic B movie in a good way– the kind stuff like Indiana Jones was based off of. I doubt I’ll think about this movie much if at all in the coming years, but Jungle Cruise is harmless, crowd-pleasing entertainment. And isn’t that all you need from a movie?

Solidly-helmed set-pieces coupled with a simple-yet-fun adventure plot make Jungle Cruise Worth a Watch.

What other theme park rides should get movies? What did you think of Jungle Cruise? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

REVIEW METRIC: Don’t bother; If you’re bored; Worth a watch; Pretty darn good; Must see; Watch it A.S.A.P.

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *