Some moments in the new “Jungle Cruise” movie make you forget where you are. You know you’re in the Amazon rainforest along the river. You know there’s a lot of greenery and vegetation.
But sometimes you feel like you’re in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film or in a weird alternate version of the new “Jumanji” movies. Or, at times, as if you found yourself in a prequel to “National Treasure.” Some moments even give you “Indiana Jones” vibes through Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as he swings across vines trying to stop foreign killers.
Though it doesn’t quite reach the level of the first “Pirates” movie, the new “Jungle Cruise” ranks among the best action-adventure family films from Disney in decades. It’s a reminder of how fun these mysterious adventure movies can be — and that there’s always a story behind a Disneyland ride.
What happens in the new ‘Jungle Cruise’ movie?
“Jungle Cruise” tells the story of Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother, MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall), who seek an ancient tribal artifact that could change the fate of humanity. To find the artifact, they request the help of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Johnson), who agrees to take them down the Amazon River. But the relentless European Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) is on the hunt for Frank, Lily and MacGregor, which creates a wild adventure story.
Overall, it’s the family movie of the summer — and there’s no question about that. It’s an epic ride with love and heart at its core.
The Disney summer flick brings you along for the ride and you never want to get off. It’s full of beautiful scenery that you just don’t see in movies anymore. It was funny, corny and an awesome thrill ride, which is welcomed in the modern era of films.
Does the ‘Jungle Cruise’ cast perform well?
Blunt was terrific in her role as Lily Houghton. She’s a forward-thinking, intelligent hero who not only knows so much about the world, but she can escape almost every situation. She’s unique in that there are few flaws in her character. Even though she always thinks she’s right, she tends to always be right.
Johnson performed well as Frank Wolff. He inspired genuine laughter throughout the movie for his role. In some parts, he was mysterious and questionable. There were moments where I wondered if he would become a villain or not — all the way into the end of the movie. But the warmhearted nature of Johnson is on full display in “Jungle Cruise,” and he fits perfectly into the role as Frank.
Plemons is the star of the show, playing Prince Joachim, who is searching for Lily and Frank. He’s funny in that classic villain way — the antagonist who always falls short of the hero through comedic moments. He has a few funny moments spread through. And there are scenes that will remind you of Plemons’ role in “Breaking Bad” as a cold-blooded killer. He’s an excellent Disney villain who reminds me of Captain Hook in so many ways.
Are there any twists?
Yes, there are plenty of zigzags through the picture. The twists and turns of the story got me invested in the film. It kept me guessing. Every time I thought I knew something, it got turned on its head. All of the twists feel natural, too. They aren’t forced, and they make sense in the context of the plot. They all work, and they’re all earned.
“Jungle Cruise” also made me want a sequel to see where everything goes from here.
Criticisms of ‘Jungle Cruise’
I do think the opening section was a tad long. You sort of have to buy into the movie after seeing how everything plays out. The opening sequence made me wonder if the movie was going to take a flatter approach than it did, and not really have the comedic, fun, adventure stuff that I thought we’d get. But alas, the opening was the only drag of the movie. After the first 10 minutes or so, you’re locked into this movie.
The ending scene wasn’t my favorite, either. It was a little too corny for this movie. There was probably a better ending than the one chosen.
In all, “Jungle Cruise” tries to be like the original “Pirates of the Caribbean.” And that makes sense since it’s another Disney ride. But the project falls short of the “POTC” masterpiece. Maybe if this movie had come out in the early 2000s, we’d be thinking of it differently. But it tries to play off the “Pirates” style of storytelling in a more modern age. In some ways, it feels like we’ve lived through this movie before.
Is it better than the ride?
“Jungle Cruise” might not have been the best Disney flick based off a ride. It still lacks the power and cultural impact of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” And though it has similarities to “Indiana Jones,” it doesn’t quite match that film either.
Still, the movie definitely made me want to ride the “Jungle Cruise” ride again, which is a fun result of the project. And that’s probably the point of the movie from a marketing perspective — encouraging people to ride a Disneyland staple.
But, from a bigger perspective, the film makes you want to believe in Disney magic again.