Review by Sean Boelman
When thinking of Disney attractions prime for cinematic adaptations, Jungle Cruise was near the top along with its Adventureland cousin, Pirates of the Caribbean. And while the film is mostly effective as passive entertainment, this is an overwhelmingly forgettable attempt to start a franchise.
The movie follows an explorer who sets out on a journey across the Amazon with the help of a charming riverboat captain in search of a mythical object. It’s an old-school adventure movie, complete with wacky hijinks, quippy one-liners, and extravagant set pieces, but what holds this film back is that it all too often feels like an imitation of the classic movies whose magic it is trying to recapture.
At just under hours before credits, the film is of a pretty average length for the genre, but the pacing is really inconsistent. Although the action scenes are pretty well spread-out, the beats of the movie are very generic and predictable. There are a few scenes that showcase the cheesy, campy fun this could have been, but the film loses its steam pretty quickly.
There is also the fact that the movie has absolutely no nuance with what it is trying to say. Although the anti-misogynist message of the film had the potential to be something really powerful and inspiring, the repeated attacks against the protagonist’s gender become cumbersome after a time. And an “openly gay” moment is well-intentioned but cheaply executed.
It’s a shame, because there are a lot of individual elements that work here — they just don’t come together into the satisfying whole. The two leads could have been interesting action heroes, if only they were given a more enjoyable adventure to partake in. And had the roles of the villains been developed a bit further, they could have been memorable.
The highlight of the movie is definitely the cast, which is mostly strong. Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are both charming in their roles, making the most out of the little they were given. Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti are both hamming it up as the antagonists, and provide for some of the most fun-to-watch moments in the film.
Visually, the movie is very disappointing, which is heartbreaking to say. It’s a monstrous combination of CGI and practical effects that lacks the Disney “magic”. It’s always clear that what we are watching is fake, even more so than the dated animatronics in the theme park attraction that inspired the film.
Jungle Cruise has its moments, but for the most part, it’s pretty dull. The cast is exceptional, and are clearly having fun, although they deserve more than this entirely uninspired attempt at paying homage to the classic adventure movie.
Jungle Cruise hits theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 29.