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In the pantheon of Disney movies based on Disney theme park rides, "Jungle Cruise" is pretty good—leagues better than dreck like "Haunted Mansion," though not quite as satisfying as the original "Pirates of the Caribbean." 

The most pleasant surprise is that director Jaume Collet-Serra (" The Shallows ") and a credited team of five, count 'em, writers have largely jettisoned the ride's mid-century American colonial snarkiness and casual racism (a tradition  only recently eliminated ). Setting the revamp squarely in the wheelhouse of blockbuster franchise-starters like " Raiders of the Lost Ark ," " Romancing the Stone " and "The Mummy," and pushing the fantastical elements to the point where the story barely seems to be taking place in our universe, it's a knowingly goofy romp, anchored to the banter between its leads, an English feminist and adventurer played by Emily Blunt and a riverboat captain/adventurer played by  Dwayne Johnson . 

Notably, however, even though the stars' costumes (and a waterfall sequence) evoke the classic "The African Queen"—John Huston's comic romance/action film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn ; worth looking up if you've never watched it—the sexual chemistry between the two is nonexistent, save for a few fleeting moments, like when Frank picks up the heroine‘s hand-cranked silent film camera and captures affectionate images of her. At times the leads seem more like a brother and sister needling each other than a will they/won’t they bantering couple. Lack of sexual heat is often (strangely) a bug, or perhaps a feature, in films starring Johnson, the four-quadrant blockbuster king (though not on Johnson’s HBO drama "Ballers"). Blunt keeps putting out more than enough flinty looks of interest to sell a romance, but her leading man rarely reflects it back at her. Fortunately, the film's tight construction and prolific action scenes carry it, and Blunt and Johnson do the irresistible force/immovable object dynamic well enough, swapping energies as the story demands.

Blunt's character, Lily Houghton, is a well-pedigreed adventurer who gathers up maps belonging to her legendary father and travels to the Amazon circa 1916 to find the Tears of the Moon, petals from a "Tree of Life"-type of fauna that can heal all infirmities. She and her snooty, pampered brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) hire Frank "Skipper" Wolff (Johnson) to bring them to their destination. The only notable concession to the original theme park ride comes here: Wolff's day job is taking tourists upriver and making cheesy jokes in the spirit of "hosts" on Disney Jungle Cruise rides of yore. On the mission, Johnson immediately settles into a cranky but funny old sourpuss vibe, a la John Wayne or Harrison Ford , and inhabits it amiably enough, even though buoyant, almost childlike optimism comes more naturally to him than world-weary gruffness. 

The supporting cast is stacked with overqualified character players. Paul Giamatti plays a gold-toothed, sunburned, cartoonishly “Italian” harbor master who delights at keeping Frank in debt. Edgar Ramirez is creepy and scary as a conquistador whose curse from centuries ago has trapped him in the jungle.  Jesse Plemons plays the main baddie, Prince Joachim, who wants to filch the power of the petals for the Kaiser back in Germany (he's Belloq to the stars' Indy and Marion, trying to swipe the Ark). Unsurprisingly, given his track record, Plemons steals the film right out from under its leads.

Collet-Serra keeps the action moving along, pursuing a more classical style than is commonplace in recent live-action Disney product (by which I mean, the blocking and editing have a bit of elegance, and you always know where characters are in relation to each other). The editing errs on the side of briskness to such an extent that affecting, beautiful, or spectacular images never get to linger long enough to become iconic. The CGI is dicey, particularly on the larger jungle animals—was the production rushed, or were the artists just overworked?—and there are moments when everything seems so rubbery/plasticky that you seem to be watching the first film that was actually shot on location at Disney World.

But the staging and execution of the chases and fights compensates. Derivative of films that were themselves highly derivative, "Jungle Cruise" has the look and feel of a paycheck gig for all involved, but everyone seems to be having a great time, including the filmmakers.

In theaters and on Disney+ for a premium charge starting Friday, July 30th. 

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz

Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of, TV critic for New York Magazine and, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism.

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Film credits.

Jungle Cruise movie poster

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence.

127 minutes

Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff

Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton

Jack Whitehall as McGregor Houghton

Edgar Ramírez as Aguirre

Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim

Paul Giamatti as Nilo

Writer (story)


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Jungle Cruise Reviews

review of film jungle cruise

Jungle Cruise is exactly what it makes itself out to be: a big-name summer blockbuster...

Full Review | Feb 23, 2023

A family adventure through familiar, albeit shallow, waters.

Full Review | Original Score: C | Feb 13, 2023

review of film jungle cruise

Any minor quibbles are outshone by the star power wattage generated by Johnson and Blunt. If Johnson is still the Most Electrifying Man In Entertainment, then Emily Blunt is a superconductor.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Nov 12, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

Book your trip on Jungle Cruise now. It’s a first-class ticket.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Oct 9, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

JUNGLE CRUISE (the movie) was based on "Jungle Cruise", a Disneyland ride, so I wasn't expecting much, and was definitely pleasantly surprised. All in all, this is a fun movie.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Sep 18, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

The script (from the trio of Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) is silly and light-hearted, reminiscent of the late-1960’s pulp you would find at a Saturday afternoon matinee.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 17, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

Inspired, too inspired, on its titular Disney attraction ride. Dwayne Johnson is practically the attraction's tour guide. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Jul 18, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

Jungle Cruise manages to coast on the charm of its two leads, making it a fun, if somewhat forgettable, adventure.

Full Review | Original Score: 6/10 | May 18, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

JUNGLE CRUISE is a really enjoyable retro action-adventure film for the entire family, that shines with its great stars, wonderful chemistry and a surprisingly good and always entertaining story.

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Apr 7, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

Despite the flaws, theres something about Jungle Cruise that just works. Its a traditional summer blockbuster that combines charming leads with enough adventure to keep everyone happy.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Mar 3, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

Unlike the vast majority of other recent Disney Live-Action features, Jungle Cruise is a film easy to have a good time with.

Full Review | Feb 22, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

If theres a ride that the Jungle Cruise feels more like than the Jungle Cruise, its Pirates of the Caribbean. And sadly, I have to say that this is this movies biggest downfall.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/10 | Feb 16, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

No amount of money, not even the reported 200 million budget, can help Jungle Cruise avoid tasting like a hunk of processed meat from the Disney conveyor belt.

Full Review | Original Score: 1/4 | Feb 12, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

Jungle Cruise is passable light-hearted family entertainment.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Feb 12, 2022

review of film jungle cruise

As far as these things go, this one isn't half-bad, and that's almost entirely due to the presence of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4 | Nov 21, 2021

Successfully brings a beloved Disneyland ride to life.

Full Review | Nov 12, 2021

review of film jungle cruise

The scenery is beautiful and it is a fun ride along with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson but it is no African Queen.

Full Review | Original Score: 5 | Oct 30, 2021

review of film jungle cruise

Disney has an unlimited supply of backlog intellectual properties they can recycle/reimagine/reconfigure forever. These titles make money and win-over unknowing new audiences, but in the end, it's filmmaking at its most safe, lazy, and unimaginative.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 stars | Oct 24, 2021

review of film jungle cruise

Without the jolly fun of watching Blunt and Johnson wriggle out of tough situations and give some spark to their green-screen acting, the slick Jungle Cruise would be just another visual effects-heavy escapade that we have seen many times before.

Full Review | Original Score: C+ | Oct 23, 2021

Full of Indiana Jones and Sunday comic strips humor, but with Disney DNA. [Full Review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Oct 18, 2021

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Ride-based adventure is fun, if predictable; peril, scares.

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Jungle Cruise is an action-fantasy adventure inspired by the classic Disneyland ride. Set in 1916, it follows intrepid Dr. Lily Houghton ( Emily Blunt ), who hires skipper Frank Wolff ( Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ) to guide her and her brother down the Amazon River in search of a mythical healing tree. Violence and peril are the biggest issues: Expect frequent danger, creepy cursed villains (as well as a cartoonishly evil German baddie), weapons (guns, torpedoes, swords, knives), an implied significant death (and some actual less significant ones), threatening snakes, and a jaguar that looks more vicious than she actually is. Adult characters drink from flasks and bottles, and an animal gets tipsy. One conversation about removing a knife from someone's body could be perceived as suggestive (though the double meaning will likely go over kids' heads), and there's some flirty banter and a couple of kisses. Without saying it outright, one character comes out to another, who's supportive. While main characters demonstrate impressive courage, perseverance, and teamwork, the movie's initial depiction of Native Amazonians as a tribe of angry cannibals is concerning, even though ( spoiler alert ) it turns out it's largely for show.

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Turn it off about an hour in..., what's the story.

Set in 1916, JUNGLE CRUISE opens with bold botanist Dr. Lily Houghton ( Emily Blunt ) stealing an Amazonian arrowhead from an elite -- and anti-woman -- British explorers' club. The artifact is supposed to lead Houghton to a mysterious location on the Amazon River where legendary healing flowers bloom on an ancient tree. Lily and her brother, MacGregor ( Jack Whitehall ), head to the Amazon and hire brash skipper Frank Wolff ( Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ) to guide them on the perilous river trip. Along the way, Lily and Frank must avoid not only the natural dangers of the Amazon but also a villainous German prince ( Jesse Plemons ) who's also searching for the tree, as well as a group of Spanish conquistadores who need the flower's petals to reverse their immortal curse.

Is It Any Good?

The irresistibly charming stars help make this adventurous, occasionally swashbuckling ride adaptation amusing, if not as memorable as The Mummy or Pirates of the Caribbean . Johnson can make nearly any character likable; here, Frank's silly, punny jokes are also a fun nod to the Disney ride's vibe. Blunt, likewise, is ideally cast as the pioneering Dr. Houghton. Lily bucks social mores of the time by having a job and a Ph.D., knowing how to defend herself, and even wearing trousers (Frank calls her "Pants"). She also has a refreshingly close relationship with her brother, who's posh and fussy but is still willing to follow her into murky, life-threatening situations. Other members of the cast are underused -- like Paul Giamatti as a local riverboat mogul and Edgar Ramirez as head conquistador Aguirre -- or they overact, like Plemons' caricature of a sociopathic German villain, Prince Joachim.

The movie's landscaping and production art are vibrant and immersive, and director Jaume Collet-Serra should be applauded for making sure to organically include themes of gender, class, and discrimination against the Amazonian natives -- without being preachy. Still, the movie's portrayal of those natives is a bit cringey, even if the movie course-corrects to subvert the same stereotypes it initially seems to be perpetuating. Luckily, Blunt and Johnson cheerfully elevate the story enough to make audiences gloss over some of the screenplay's missteps and enjoy the ride.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the level of violence in Jungle Cruise . Does stylized or fantasy violence impact viewers differently than more realistic violence?

How do Lily's actions convey that she is both brave and smart? Do you consider her a role model ? What character strengths does she demonstrate?

How is drinking depicted in the movie? Are there consequences for any character's drinking? Why does that matter?

Did you notice any stereotypes in the film? Why is the initial depiction of the Native Amazonians problematic? Is it excused by the fact that the tribe is in on the joke/plan?

Movie Details

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review of film jungle cruise

Jungle Cruise (2021)

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review of film jungle cruise

‘Jungle Cruise’: The Rock and Emily Blunt Go Up the Disney River, Without a Paddle

Blame Johnny Depp.

I mean, listen, feel free to blame the actor for any number of things , if you want. But specifically, in terms of riot-act reading, let’s go back to 2003, when Mr. Depp slapped on a head scarf, trotted out his best Keef Richards wobble and slur, and turned what felt like a Disney Hail-Mary I.P. cash-in into a cash cow. No one expected a movie based on an amusement park ride based on creaky, age-old seafaring stories to give birth to a popular franchise; no one expected a movie about 18th century pirates to show up in the early part of the 21st century, period. (What is this, the Watchmen universe ?)

Depp is responsible for turning the Pirates of the Caribbean films into hits, even when the series slipped into diminishing-returns territory. More importantly, he helped to prove a Mouse House theorem: When it comes to licensing, exploiting and rebooting, why stop at your best-known characters? Find the right actor, and you can sell your park properties’ greatest hits as intellectual properties too. If you can hire a better-than-decent director and keep the pace frantic, all the better. The movies then direct customers back to the park, and the circle of l̶i̶f̶e̶ commerce continues. The question was not whether this was the beginning of a trend but what the next “title” would be and how soon we’d be E-ticketing to a theater near us.

The reprieve lasted longer than we thought, enough to lull us into a false sense of security. Maybe it’s unfair to blame the ghost of Jack Sparrow and the Pirates boom-bust of yore for Jungle Cruise . But dear Walt in the heavens, the shadow of that series looms large over this attempt to sell the Magic Kingdom’s vintage, colonialism-a-go-go boat ride as the next big endless-summer-movie thing. To be fair, so too does the specter of the Indiana Jones films, The African Queen, steampunk, old-school Werner Herzog, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne, the entire previous filmography of the Rock, that book on Ponce de Leon you forgot to return to your library in fourth grade and every boys’ adventure ever written. Still: the wisecracking, trickster rascal? The hyper-capable and social-sexism-thwarting heroine? The mystical, supernatural villains, and their imperialistic, human bad-guy counterpart? The set pieces that update bits of ye olde derring-do, often digitally and occasionally successfully? You’ve seen this film. Only the hats, the source material’s location in the park and the size of the biceps have changed.

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Stream Jungle Cruise on Disney+

First, your lovable scamp of a skipper: His name is Frank Wolff, but feel free to call him Dwayne Johnson. This is a great example of what a movie star, a real one, does when you hire them: gives you their screen persona and molds it to fit the container without changing the essential recipe. It’s the one big difference between this and other Disney’s other big cinéma du amusement park entry, in that Depp injected everything an odd sense of unpredictability and Johnson gives us the reassuring feeling we’re watching a Dwayne Johnson movie. Except this time, it happens to be 1916, we’re deep in the Brazilian rain forests, and the star is smiling instead of seriously scowling. Wolff is a tour guide who runs his trusty boat up and down the Amazon for gullible tourists, which — yup — is distinguished by the captain’s facepalm-inspiring banter. Maybe you forgot for a nanosecond that the movie is based on the ride distinguished by a running commentary of puns ranging from bad to very bad to “make it stop, make it stop!!” Anyone who’s been to Disneyland in the past 50 years will recognize the jokes Johnson tells to his hostages (sorry, “customers”). The meta-gag is that even folks in 1916 thought these groaners were god-awful.

Meanwhile, in Merry Olde England, a young man named MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) is making a plea to ye olde stuffy historical organization to let him access an arrowhead recently found in the Amazon. This artifact, about to be tucked away in their archives, is allegedly the key to unlocking “the Tears of the Moon” — bright flowers found blossoming only on the mystical Tree of Life, and the obsession/downfall of Spanish conquistador Don Lope de Aguirre (Edgar Ramírez). He’s not the Houghton to keep an eye on, however: That would be MacGregor’s sister, Lily ( Emily Blunt ), the headstrong adventurer of the family. She’s keen to prove that the rumors surrounding the magical healing properties of this foliage are true, and thus cure all ills. Yet another party, Germany’s Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), would also like the arrowhead. There’s a world war going, you see. Having access to the tree’s bounty might give his nation the winning edge.

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We get one rousing set piece involving Blunt and Plemons competing to liberate the arrowhead from its crate — a jumble of feints and moving parts that director Jaume Collet-Serra smooths out nicely; even if you didn’t know he’s logged time putting Liam Neeson through his Action Gramps paces , you see why he got the job — before everyone meets up in South America, and everything settles into a well-worn, familiar Jungle Adventure 101 groove. It turns out that Blunt’s tart apple crisp of a comic performance pairs nicely with Johnson’s beefcake served with a side of ham. The actress, especially, seems to thrive in playing the Hepburn to Johnson’s buffed-up Bogart. (When you watch her spring into action, and see how well the movie plays to her vulnerability and her fearlessness, you remember that this is the filmmaker who also gave us Blake Lively’s alpha-female-in-peril in The Shallows. ) Blunt’s already proven to be a great physical screen performer as well as an expressive one, versatile enough to go deep or stay breezy, and even when she leans heavily on righteous indignation, there’s a verve she brings to all of this. It rubs off on her screen partner, too. She calls him “Skippy.” He calls her “Pants.” (Because she wears pants, and is also a lady.) They can almost jointly convince you this is a cruise worth taking. Almost.

Other than that, well…Plemons’ evil Saxon may worship the Kaiser instead of the Fürher, but he’s a screen Nazi by any other name, and the mustache-twirling giddiness he brings to this stock villain soon dissipates quicker than a cow leg in a piranha pool. Paul Giamatti drops by with a that’s-ah-spicy-meatball accent, a gold tooth and a vibe that scream “my summer house needs renovating, too.” One character’s interest in then-verboten alternative lifestyles doubles as both sympathetic representation and gay-panic-driven punchline, leaving you with a chicken v. egg dilemma over what came first in script rewrites. And the ride’s legacy of blithe exoticism butting up against Tarzan-grade stereotypes — to quote a bit player here, “that booga-booga nonsense” — gets dealt with in a way that suggests a box has been summarily ticked off a previous-grievances list. It wants to have your cannibal-natives cake and critique it too, at least in theory.

There are a few elements in Jungle Cruise that would constitute being labeled as spoilers, but the fact that the movie ends ready and revved up for a sequel is not one of them. Disney would very much like lightning to strike twice, and you can feel moments here — notably when Aguirre and some conquistador comrades return in a, shall we say, more “natural” postmortem state — where they’re purposefully nudging you: “Hey, remember how much you loved those early Pirates movies? So why not give this a try as well?” The ride they’re really asking you to go on, however, isn’t a reprise of their hokey upriver excursion. It’s something closer to an amusement-park attraction named Generic Blockbuster Cruise, where you slowly glide past a bunch of prefab set-ups — over there you’ll see some thrills, look out on your right for some spills and chills — and the whole thing moves inexorably forward on a track, while a skipper cracks the same corny jokes. It’s a decent enough way to kill time once if the lines are short. You won’t be particularly be rushing to jump back on the ride again.

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review of film jungle cruise


‘Jungle Cruise’ Review: Disney’s Latest Movie Ride Isn’t Rousing Enough to Justify the Trip

Dwayne johnson & emily blunt do their best to help disney copy the "pirates of the caribbean" formula, but only jesse plemons pulls it off..

review of film jungle cruise

David Ehrlich

Jul 27, 2021 12:00 pm


review of film jungle cruise

“Jungle Cruise”

Now that Disney has remade all of its most beloved movies, the studio is inevitably taking the next logical step and remaking Werner Herzog’s instead. In a change of pace that’s sure to delight the legion of parents who’ve been dying to show their kids “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (but have been worried that small children might be insufficiently traumatized by the sight of Klaus Kinski monologuing to a raft full of terrified monkeys about his delusional plan to take over the world), Jaume Collet-Serra’s “ Jungle Cruise ” begins with the Spanish conquistador venturing into the heart of the Amazon and being consumed by enchanted tree vines that replace his organs with snakes. Played here by Édgar Ramírez, this Aguirre is just a chill 16th century Disney Dad who became so obsessed with finding the Tree of Life that he forgot what made his life worth living in the first place — it could happen to any of us.

Of course, Werner Herzog didn’t invent Don Lope Aguirre any more than Collet-Serra invents the snappy repartee between a greasy boat captain and some high-status Brits, and “Jungle Cruise” is (alas) less indebted to New German Cinema than it is to the Disney theme park attraction that inspired it. While the faint whiff of classic films abounds in this massive summer tentpole, the musty influence of the Mouse House’s previous hits ultimately grows strong enough that you can’t smell anything else. Not even Jesse Plemons’ marvelous, Herzog-inflected performance as a demented German aristocrat named Prince Joachim can lend fresh life to a divertingly hollow matinee adventure that tries to do for the Amazon what “Pirates of the Caribbean” did for the Atlantic. It lacks the courage to sail into uncharted waters.

Nevertheless, it’s still impossible to watch Dr. Lily Houghton ( Emily Blunt ) and Captain Frank “Skipper” Wolff ( Dwayne Johnson ) navigate the jungle waters on the latter’s rickety steamboat without thinking of “The African Queen,” even if these characters subvert the archetypes that John Huston’s movie left behind in its wake: She’s a fearless adventurer instead of a nervous missionary, and he’s a ridiculously swole punster who wouldn’t hurt a fly (but still dresses the part of a rough-and-ready loner). If “Jungle Cruise” runs out of gas around the halfway point of its bloated 127-minute runtime, watching a man formerly known as “The Rock” stuff himself into Humphrey Bogart’s old costume — down to that perfect little porkpie hat — never gets old; imagine squeezing the cargo of the Titanic aboard the Staten Island Ferry and you’ll have the right idea.

These amiable heroes cross paths in 1916, as Lily — as altruistically determined to discover the Tree of Life as she is personally determined to embarrass the sexist men who run Britain’s science community — arrives on the shores of the Amazon in search of a guide who might lead her to the same treasure that drove Aguirre to ruin. Also along for the ride is her dandy brother McGregor (a very game Jack Whitehall), whose “I better not get dirty on this grand adventure” energy is so evocative of the sibling character in “The Mummy” that Whitehall should tithe half of his residuals directly to John Hannah (“Jungle Cruise” owes a lot to the spirit of that late ’90s hit, though its way of paying homage tends to be more in the vein of “distractingly bad CGI” than “vivid location photography”).

The best thing that can be said about McGregor is that his Exclusively Gay Moment™ isn’t as vague or tacked on as the ones that Disney has hyped in the past; whatever issue viewers take with the casting of a straight actor in a stereotypical gay role, at least Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa’s script centers McGregor’s ostracization from polite society, and celebrates Frank and Lily for accepting him all the same. If that sounds like a case of lowering the bar to the point that critics will champion even a scintilla of humanity, welcome to Disney’s 21st century film output, I have some Rotten Tomatoes scores to explain to you.

Frank gets a similar pass for being a lot more fun than many of the characters that Johnson has played over recent years. Cleverly introduced leading tourists on a jungle cruise that he’s rigged to feel like a theme park ride (complete with rigged pop-outs, costumed natives, and “the backside of water”), Frank exists at the softly indomitable sweet spot of Johnson’s screen persona. He’s invincible, but perhaps too independent for his own good, and it’s hard to write off any movie where Johnson argues with a ruthless Italian harbormaster played by a mustache-twirling Paul Giamatti (with a toucan on his shoulder!) and suplexes a drunken leopard in the span of five minutes. The manufactured chemistry between Johnson and Blunt — he calls her “Pants,” she calls him “Skippy” — is a mile wide and an inch deep, but a major plot twist at the halfway point of this story complicates their relationship in rewarding new ways. Collet-Serra peppers the movie with small grace notes that remind you of the “Non-Stop” director’s ability to elevate C-grade material into more rarefied air.

Such reminders prove fleeting, however, as “Jungle Cruise” is fixed to its rails from the moment it starts. Amusing as it is to watch Frank wink at the film’s Disneyland origins, the good vibes wither as you realize the whole movie was shot to resemble a theme park ride. Hawaii and Atlanta both have their charms, but neither is a convincing stand-in for the Amazon, and neither the glossy computer-generated backgrounds nor the obviously artificial (if impressively elaborate) sets compensate for the film’s lacking sense of place — if the Amazon is meant to be a character in this story, it feels like it’s being played by a deepfake. The chop-chop cuttiness would likely prove wearying in any movie this long, but here it adds to the sense that Collet-Serra has something to hide. Why is it that $200 million blockbusters always feel like they don’t want to be looked at?

“Jungle Cruise” strains for authenticity in other arenas instead, particularly when it comes to humanizing the indigenous tribes so often demonized on screen (a mixed bag that softens certain stereotypes but stops short of undoing them) and letting Aguirre’s Captain Barbossa-like crew of undead conquistadors speak in their native Spanish (unsubtitled even during the longest stretches of dialogue). It’s a shame that both of these groups feel shoehorned into a story that already has an overabundance of supporting friends and dastardly villains. Even a pivotal character like Aguirre proves little more than a distraction from the bad guy that paying audiences deserve: Megalomaniacal Jesse Plemons rocking a purple velvet suit and a prop cane while eating peas from the backside of a fork. The problem with any movie in which Plemons has a heated argument with a bee is that every other scene has to compete with that, and none of the ones in “Jungle Cruise” are able to come even close.

Blunt continues to be one of the most natural movie stars of her generation, and with her steady hand “Jungle Cruise” eventually circles back to a nice (if rather half-baked) commentary on the personal value of the treasure its characters seek. But Disney’s latest attraction just isn’t rousing enough to sustain the fun of a 20-minute ride for more than two hours, and the rewards are few and far between for a movie that taps so many resources to reach them. Not since Aguirre has a trek into the Amazon felt quite so hamstrung by delusions of grandeur. Perhaps Disney’s remake of “Fitzcarraldo” will fare better.

Disney will release “Jungle Cruise” in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on Friday, July 30.

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This Article is related to: Film , Reviews and tagged Dwayne Johnson , Emily Blunt , Jungle Cruise , Reviews


Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in Jungle Cruise.

Jungle Cruise review – theme park ride leaves the handbrake on

Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson fail to ignite in a Disney adventure that’s long on tropes and short on sparks

B y casting Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson , two actors of rare personal charm, this Disney adventure should have managed to transcend its somewhat unpromising origins (it was, like Pirates of the Car ibbean , based on a theme park ride). But for some reason, while both are perfectly likable independently (Blunt in particular is a feisty joy as scientist Lily Houghton), they fail to gel on screen.

Their lack of chemistry is not fatal to the film – director Jaume Collet-Serra creates a romp of a picture booby-trapped with adventure movie tropes (arcane curses, snakes, evil Germans) which, while they might seem familiar to Indiana Jones fans, still combine to make for a decent family flick. It’s just that a movie that requires its characters to “mend a broken heart” as part of an ancient riddle should probably have a heart to begin with.

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‘Jungle Cruise’ movie review: Family-friendly Disney adventure, that keeps it safe and sappy

Dwayne johnson and emily blunt are both good value in a fun, entertaining ride packed with monsters, magic and awful puns.

September 24, 2021 04:32 pm | Updated 04:34 pm IST

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Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in ‘Jungle Cruise’

There is nothing you have not seen before in Jungle Cruise; the excellent post-production notwithstanding, and the 3D is beautifully rendered indeed. Apart from recalling The Pirates of the Caribbean movies — considering Jungle Cruise is yet another adaptation of a theme park ride — there are bits of the Indiana Jones movies, The Mummy , and The African Queen .

That is not to say the movie is boring. It is good fun, an entertaining ride packed with monsters, magic and awful puns. Dwayne Johnson, as the steamboat captain Frank, makes terrible jokes and his chemistry with trouser-wearing botanist Lily (Emily Blunt) while not sizzling, is good natured and family-friendly. And he also has the sweetest jaguar for a pet.

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In 1556, when Aguirre (Édgar Ramírez) led the conquistadors to the Amazon in search of a magical tree, Tears of the Moon, whose flowers would heal his daughter, the jungle proved too much for them and they end up being cursed to eternal life. The jungle turns them into walking beehives, trees and poison frog mud.

Cut to 1916, the Royal Society dismisses Lily’s research on the Tears of the Moon. Lily decides to head for the Amazon with her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to find the flower and aid the British war effort.

There is also an unhinged German prince, Joachim (Jesse Plemons) who is searching for the flower. Lily and MacGregor reach Brazil and after a few adventures involving Frank’s rival — the harbour master Nilo (Paul Giamatti) and his cockatoo Rosita — hire Frank to take them to Lágrimas de Cristal where the tree is supposed to be.

Hot on their heels, in a U-boat no less, is Joachim, who decides to take the help of the undead conquistadors. After the obligatory encounters with Devil Throat-style waterfalls and head-hunters led by trader Sam (Veronica Falcón), and a race against time, our intrepid adventurers get to the tree. Frank reveals a secret about himself, MacGregor toughens up and Lily tries her hand at Frank-style humour.

While Johnson is too brawny to play the Indiana Jones-style adventurer, he is good-humoured and gamely rolls his eyes and muscles. MacGregor’s interests lying “elsewhere” is yet another Disney half-stab at inclusivity. Blunt’s Lily follows in the long tradition of bookish ladies from Katharine Hepburn’s Rose in The African Queen to Rachel Weisz’s Evie in The Mummy . She, however, is an expert at picking locks which she learned from the urchins in Delhi and throws a mean punch.

All turns out right in the end, but what happened to Proxima, the jaguar? Maybe the sequel will tell us.

Jungle Cruise is currently running in theatres

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Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt in “Jungle Cruise.”

By Jeannette Catsoulis

Like Vogon poetry , the plot of Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is mostly unintelligible and wants to beat you into submission. Manically directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, this latest derivation of a theme-park ride shoots for the fizzy fun of bygone romantic adventures like “ Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) . That it misses has less to do with the heroic efforts of its female lead than with the glinting artifice of the entire enterprise.

Emily Blunt plays Lily, a sassy British botanist weary of being disrespected by London’s chauvinistic scientific community. The Great War is in full swing, but Lily is obsessed with reaching the Amazon jungle to search for a flower that’s rumored to cure all ills. A roguish riverboat captain named Frank (Dwayne Johnson) is hired, and soon Lily and her fussy brother (Jack Whitehall) — whose discomfort with all things Amazonian is a running gag — are heading upriver into a host of digital dangers.

As snakes, cannibals and maggoty supernatural beings rattle around the frame, “Jungle Cruise” exhibits a blatantly faux exoticism that feels as flat as the forced frisson between its two leads. The pace is hectic, the dialogue boilerplate (“The natives speak of this place with dread”), the general busyness a desperate dance for our attention. Jesse Plemons is briefly diverting as a nefarious German prince, and Edgar Ramírez pops up as a rotting Spanish conquistador named Aguirre. Werner Herzog must be thrilled.

Buffeted by a relentless score and supported by a small town’s worth of digital artists, “Jungle Cruise” is less directed than whipped to a stiff peak before collapsing into a soggy mess.

“Everything you see wants to kill you,” Frank tells his passengers. Actually, I think it just wants to take your money.

Jungle Cruise Rated PG-13 for chaste kissing and bloodless fighting. Running time 2 hours 7 minutes. In theaters and on Disney+ .


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