Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Jungle Cruise is based on Disneyland’s theme park ride of the same name where a small riverboat takes a group of travelers through a jungle filled with dangerous animals and reptiles but with a supernatural element.
Review: It’s beginning to look a lot like Disney. Yes, I’m ripping on a Christmas song but it’s what came to mind while I watched Disney’s latest theme park attraction-turned-movie, Jungle Cruise. While I have visited the Haunted Mansion (and loved it) I’ve never had the pleasure of trying out their other famous theme park ride, Jungle Cruise, and surprisingly the movie makes it pretty obvious it’s based on one. From the scene where Frank, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, takes his passengers on his version of the “best jungle cruise ever” to the cartoonish (but very well-portrayed) villain Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) this is one of the Disney-est movies I’ve seen in a long time. And you know what? I ain’t mad at it!
What caught me most off guard with this one was how well it transitioned from the silly and obviously fake jungle themes in the first act to the epic adventure of the second and third. I honestly didn’t expect Disney to go so dark with this movie but the kid in me would’ve loved the PG-13 horror elements that comes into play once the more fantastical creatures, or in this case cursed Conquistadors, popped up in the story.
Led by Edgar Ramirez (Deliver us from Evil, Gold) as Aguirre, whose whole snake-like visage is the stuff of nightmares, these Spanish invaders paid the ultimate price in their search for a powerful flower called the Tears of the Moon that is rumoured to be capable of healing any ailment. And they end up being trapped by the Jungle for centuries, becoming more monstrous in appearance as time went by.
Now it’s obvious they stole this concept from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but considering they are stealing from themselves, I was willing to give it a pass. The special effects weren’t as perfect here as they were in those movies, but still the look of each of the soldiers was effective, and I can imagine kids everywhere being genuinely terrified of these monsters.
The performances by our actors got better as the story progressed and they settled into the ridiculousness of it all. Emily Blunt is always a delight to watch on screen and her chemistry with Johnson builds in a way that felt believable as their journey progressed. Jack Whitehall (Good Omens) as Lily’s brother MacGregor grew on me as the story unfolded and props to Disney for finally, FINALLY delivering a gay character that didn’t felt shoehorned in for “wokeness” sake and who also doesn’t look or feel like a caricature, but fits in as well as any other person in the story.
We also have the talents of Paul Giamatti (Billions) and Veronica Falcon (Queen of the South) popping up here, but sadly they don’t have a lot of screen time. That said, they both seemed to have fun with their roles, especially Falcon, who, on a personal note, I think is one of the more underrated actresses out there, and it’s a shame her part in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was cut short as that was just the sort of exposure she needed.
Last but not least, we have Jesse Plemons, an actor who’s no stranger to playing villainous roles (check him out in Black Mirror USS Callister episode to see what I mean). His over-the-top Nazi-like portrayal of the Prince (the story is during World War I but it works) who has his own malicious reasons for seeking the mythical flower was just the right balance of zany and scary. It’s the kind of bad guy kids are likely to laugh at while still finding him off-putting enough to be unlikeable.
Overall most of Jungle Cruise works well as the kind of adventure movie younger audiences will grow up remembering fondly. For the rest of us though, it’s derivative of every other Disney movie you’ve seen before. The beats are predictable (although there is a twist in here some might not see coming) and the more jaded among us might consider it nothing more than a retooled version of Pirates of the Caribbean.
As for myself, what started out as standard by-the-numbers adventure builds into a fun, mostly well-paced, well-acted movie that I would’ve enjoyed if I had a chance to see it in theatres, and, most importantly, the kid in me had a blast with. It’s in no way original, but like revisiting your favorite theme park and riding the rides you already have a dozen times before, there’s still fun to be found here.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
So what did you think of Jungle Cruise? And you can check out more Disney-fied live action content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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