Disney’s Jungle Cruise is a summer adventure for the entire family to enjoy. Packed with enough well-placed humor, heart, and action to leave audiences on the edge of their seats. The chemistry between its two leading stars keeps the film engaging from start to finish, but it does suffer from poor CGI in more than one instance. Jungle Cruise may not develop a lasting legacy like an Indiana Jones adventure, but this Disney feature is a serviceable summer treat.
Based on the theme park ride, Jungle Cruise can appear to be trying too hard to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, which weakens the experience a bit. The narrative borrowing from the Pirates series is evident, and it might make eyes roll at the screen. However, with Dwayne Johnson leading the film, it was impossible to be a complete misfire. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Jungle Cruise stars Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Edgar Ramirez, and Paul Giamatti. In the film, steamboat captain Frank Wolff (Johnson) agrees to take Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) and her brother MacGregor Houghton (Whitehall) on an expedition through the jungle. The pair are in search of the tree of life, but other forces await them.
Jungle Cruise was written by Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, and the script could have been better. The chemistry between Johnson and Blunt is undeniable, but the love interest angle plays out more like a sibling rivalry. Ironically, the pairing of Lily and Frank seems more fitting to be the sibling storyline over Lily and MacGregor. There is great characterization established and enough small bits of dialogue to help understand the behaviors of certain characters. However, exposition dumping to explain one of Jungle Cruise’s more crucial story elements could be perceived as unnecessary. A particular scene, which involves diving into Frank’s backstory, goes on for far too long and feels like the writers know the film isn’t making sense at times. Lily is confident, brave, adventurous, and hopes to cure diseases after finding the tree of life. Her brother exists to simply boost his sister’s spotlight, so MacGregor feels like an afterthought by the end.
Frank is resourceful, determined, and a solid captain, but also a liar. Lily’s intelligence is insulted by his lies several times throughout their journey, yet their unannounced attraction towards each other seems to be furthered by his deception and how much he frustrates her. Johnson and Blunt’s performances are part of what enhances the characters being likable, Lily more so than Frank. The childish arguments between the pair can become irritating, so it’s saved by two established talents doing what they do best. Blunt shines as the confident Dr. who gets on Frank’s nerves throughout the film because she marches to the beat of her drum and won’t be dismissed because she’s a woman.
As far as cruises go, Jungle Cruise struggles to maintain the magic it wants to capture, mostly due to the less than adequate CGI. For instance, Frank owns a jaguar that he uses to enhance his image if necessary, and every time the jaguar is on screen it can take audiences out of the experience. It’s a distraction that derails the magical journey that’s trying to be captured. Serra’s direction is fine overall, and while the pacing in the middle can ruin Jungle Cruise’s momentum, the action-packed moments are well shot and there is a tense moment involving water at one point that will have viewers on the edge for these characters survival. Jungle Cruise wants to be heartfelt in its finale, but events before one specific moment make it difficult to find this finale convincing.
Jungle Cruise isn’t without its flaws, specifically found in its narrative and visual effects. Johnson and Blunt keep the film afloat with their performances, but the progression of their characters feels unnatural despite how romantic it may be for some viewers. Fans of the ride might be correct when arguing that the ride offers a better experience. Jungle Cruise gets enough right for all ages to enjoy despite the problems that hold it back.