JUNGLE CRUISE Review; "A Fun Family Blockbuster That Reminds Us Why We Love Going To The Movies"

Jungle Cruise arrives in theaters this Friday, but after those glowing social media reactions, what's our verdict on the latest Disney movie based on one of their iconic theme park rides? Find out here...

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After a series of delays caused by the pandemic, Jungle Cruise is now set to arrive in theaters at perhaps the best possible time. We’re not referring to its chances of being a box office hit thanks to a prime summer slot (remember, it will also debut on Disney+’s Premier Access this Friday), but instead because it’s without a doubt the perfect reminder for families that there’s nothing like experiencing a movie together on the biggest screen possible. It’s impossible not to highly recommend Jungle Cruise, a swashbuckling adventure with heaps of laughs, action, and a surprising amount of heart. 

A love letter to the classic Disneyland theme park ride (Dwayne Johnson reels off a series of cringe-worthy, but somehow still hilarious, one-liners during an early part of the movie), the movie quickly manages to justify its existence as Pirates of the Caribbean did way back in 2003. With a solid premise and a cast you won’t be able to help but fall in love with, Jungle Cruise is a blast from start to finish. There are a few familiar ideas - an unlikely duo, or trio in this instance, working together to track down a magical MacGuffin - but more than enough new ones to ensure what we’re seeing never feels stale or too familiar. In a lot of ways, it feels like the movie is borrowing the best ideas from everything from Indiana Jones to The Mummy and even the aforementioned Pirates franchise, but director Jaume Collet-Serra deftly balances all of those to deliver a family-friendly adventure that, after a terrible eighteen months or so for the entire world, will leave you grinning from ear to ear; what a ride for families this summer looking to get back into theaters. 

If Jungle Cruise does ever hit rocky waters, it’s occasionally in terms of visual effects. While they’re very good for the vast majority of the movie, there are a few examples of green screen moments that look like green screen moments, while some of the animals, characters, and surroundings are short enough of being completely photorealistic that you might get occasionally distracted by them. It’s a minor niggle, and one the family-friendly audience that the movie is catered to aren’t likely to lose any sleep over. 

Where the movie does soar is with an ensemble who were clearly having as much fun on set as we were watching the movie. It goes without saying at this point that Johnson just oozes charisma on screen, and as Frank, the actor jumps from telling the sort of jokes that make you wince while riding the real Jungle Cruise to genuinely making you care about this skipper with ease. It’s a meaty performance and one that bodes well for what he and Collet-Serra are looking to deliver in Black Adam next year. Emily Blunt is similarly excellent; tough as nails, smart, and fiercely independent, she’s everything the female lead of an action blockbuster like this should be. Jack Whitehall, meanwhile, is also a pleasant surprise and while it’s too soon to establish whether he’s a one-trick pony given this is really his first major Hollywood role, he takes a character who could have easily been irritating and makes him a surprisingly layered, fun person to spend time with (that’s particularly the case in a touching scene with Johnson’s Frank).

Elsewhere, Édgar Ramírez and Paul Giamatti make the best of what prove to be relatively minor roles, but it’s Jesse Plemons as Prince Joachim who most often steals the show as a wonderfully over the top German who is looking to get his hands of the Tree of Life for his own sinister means. The actor has shown so much range in the projects he’s been part of up until now, but this one feels like him having the most fun. 

Ultimately, "fun" is the perfect way to describe Jungle Cruise. Funny, heartfelt, with lots of action, the movie is a joy to watch, and like Cruella, a great example of just how different and exciting Disney’s live-action movies can be outside the big Marvel and Star Wars IPs. Its biggest achievement may be how easily it gets us to care about these characters, but all these different elements falling into place is what makes this a ride you’ll want to take again and again. As Johnson, Blunt, and Whitehall are pursued through the jungle with Plemons’ wacky aristocrat in hot pursuit (in a submarine, of course), you’ll find it tough to sit back and not think, "Damn, I missed the movies." 

Jungle Cruise is a ride you won’t want to get off; with its charming three leads and a standout villain in Jesse Plemons, you’ll be all aboard (sorry) for a fun family blockbuster that reminds us why we love going to the movies. 

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