Movie Review: Jungle Cruise

Movies about people exploring exotic locations and encountering all manner of peril along the way have long been a Hollywood staple. From the opening encounters on Skull Island in King Kong to the debut of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark to the romantic comedy twist of Romancing the Stone or the supernatural-leaning The Mummy and up through the more recent video game inspired Jumanji sequels, this sort of material has proven pretty reliable at both making lots of money, and becoming firmly ingrained in our collective consciousness. Walt Disney Studios’ latest attempt to turn one of their theme park rides into a movie franchise may or may not prove to be profitable for the studio, but it is definitely not as memorable as those other films.

In 1916, courageous Lily (Emily Blunt) and her more foppish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) head off to South America on the trail of the legendary Tears of the Moon, petals of a rare tree that only bloom under very strict conditions and are rumored to have the potential to cure all illnesses. When they arrive, they encounter Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), a struggling tour boat guide, who tricks them into thinking that he is the captain they booked to take them down the river. The ruse is quickly spoiled, but he convinces Lily that he is the only one capable of getting her to her destination and so they set off together anyway. Simultaneously, German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons, having lots of fun hamming it up with his accent), is also looking for the tree to aid his country’s efforts in the war, and frees 3 cursed Spanish conquistadors who had been turned to stone in the 16th century on the same hunt to help him in his efforts, thereby adding the requisite CGI monsters to the proceedings. And for the most part, you can pretty well guess where things go from there.

The cast all do a fine job, with Blunt and Johnson displaying enough chemistry to pull off their contempt-to-affection storyline. Everyone else seem to be having fun with their roles, which makes watching them easy enough to enjoy. Aside from the first “coming out” scene in a Disney movie and a decent attempt at being more respectful towards the native cultures represented on screen, there isn’t much new about the plot however, and after an effectively entertaining chase by a submarine as they are preparing to leave the village on their tour boat, much of the action is so reliant on over-the-top CGI that it removes any sense of plausibility and makes it difficult to feel invested. It’s a passable way to kill a few hours, and will likely keep younger audiences amused, but not even the charm and energy of the actors can keep it from being pretty forgettable. ★★★

Rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence.

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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