Jungle Cruise ★★★★
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons
Pulling vines of inspiration from every angle, Disney’s Jungle Cruise breathes new life into one of the iconic theme park's eldest attractions with old tricks that still manage to capture the magic of the mouse.
In search of an ancient tree with the power to heal any wound, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) joins Amazon Skipper: Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) on a riverboat ride through the deadly jungle in an effort to change the future of medicine. Although the perils of the Amazon are lethal enough, they also have to contend with a rival archeologist and cursed conquistadors all competing for the treasure.
As the movie begins you could be forgiven for thinking the plot is straight out of 1999’s The Mummy. The curse, the reluctant adventurer, even down to the British comic relief brother: McGregor (Jack Whitehall). But as the film goes on, more comparisons can be plucked with other childhood classics that turn this movie into a somewhat tasteful concoction. The elements from Pirates of the Caribbean are certainly just as obvious, but the overall experience I would describe as: Disney’s Indiana Jones (which could very well be on the way next year).
People who have visited Disneyland and have ridden the Jungle Cruise attraction will also be forgiven for finding little to no comparison with the ride at all. The steady tour along the animatronic infested stream is a far cry away from the 2021 film - and to be honest that’s a good thing. Although not present on opening day in 1955, the Jungle Cruise is known for the terrible (so bad it’s funny) banter delivered by the Skipper all along the river run, and this is about the only similarity you can pick between the two.
Dwayne Johnson delivers a charismatic performance as our skipper throughout and his on screen chemistry with Emily Blunt blossoms into a believable Disney bond strengthened by their inital distaste for each others character. Surprisingly Jack Whitehall is not the shipwreck many foresaw him to be, but my favourite cast member has to be Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim, the rival archeologist who perfectly balances ferocity and comedic timing. The cast as a whole keeps this film a float throughout its 2 hour runtime.
From the iconic jungle to 1916 London, the CGI and cinematography in this film never seems jarring. Even the contemporary costumes help to sell this movie as something special and overall, it just might be that something that Disney needs. I had a revelation as I followed our protagonists along their adventure that reminded me of the feeling live-action Disney movies gave me as a child. It’s as if Jaume Collett-Sera’s feature about an old weathered ride hit that sweet-spot that the recent remakes of classics have been unable to find. This could very well be the magic of the original concept, or it could be the antidote to the countless rehashes we’ve been forced to endure over the last five years.
Disney should readjust their strategy away from destroying the legacy of their animated pantheon, and focus on more films like Jungle Cruise. Fun, family-friendly features that deliver the child-like whimsy that Walt originally intended.
Jungle Cruise available in cinemas now and on Disney+with premier access for £17.99