Jungle Cruise (2021) – Reel Review

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra | 2h 7mins | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) travels to Brazil in order to find a healing flower that could save all mankind. To get where she wants, she hires the aid of insufferable boat captain, Frank (Dwayne Johnson). 

There aren’t many studios in the world that can create a summer blockbuster from just the inspiration of a theme-park ride but Disney, the merchandise behemoths that own the rights to most major franchises on earth, have now managed to do it twice. Their second attempt Jungle Cruise, starring the ever charismatic Dwayne Johnson and an Emily Blunt on top form, is nothing but pure formula – but it will be sure to bring home the box office just for how fun it is. 

Jungle Cruise is oddly directed by Jaume Collet-Serra who’s most notable work is the Blake Lively shark movie, The Shallows (2016) and a few Liam Neeson action flicks. Maybe it’s the director’s knowledge of popcorn entertainment that helped him with the project but tonally Jungle Cruise is on a different level. It’s vibrant, cheeky, comedic tone exudes a much more family friendly and adventurous approach than the director may be used to but Collet-Serra takes it all in his stride, making the film all more enjoyable for it. 

Despite it’s shallow roots the movie does it’s best to inject myth and depth into it’s story, albeit a little too much. While the main thread is Blunt and Johnson battling rapids and hunting a healing flower, there are numerous threats and subplots at work trying to give the film a little more volume. Jesse Plemons chews the scenery wonderfully as an over the top German general, Whitehall acts as the anti-adventure comedy with his own story to tell and Johnson’s eventual development of backstory adds even more fantasy to the already fantastical story. 

The problem is that amid all the twists and turns the film never really shakes the formulaic feeling. The flirty squabbles of its two leads inevitably end in romance, the comeuppance of it’s villains are predictable and the scenes of tension lack a belief that anything devastating can really happen. It’s a reminder that the barriers that Disney filmmakers work within really do stifle anything considered a risk, and while Jungle Cruise certainly isn’t boring – in fact it’s one of the funnest blockbusters to happen this year – there really isn’t any wiggle room when it comes to seeing anything new. 

At the centre of the film though is it’s stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, two of the most charismatic and likeable performers working today. It’s hard to not to be endeared by Blunt’s positivity and ruthlessness and Johnson’s natural charm is what makes him such a great leading man but together they work tirelessly to make the film enjoyable. Their chemistry is what drives most of Jungle Cruise and while they aren’t doing anything spectacular, they certainly look to be enjoying themselves.

If you forget that at the heart of the film is just an attempt by Disney to capitalise on their own theme park ride, what you have is a summer blockbuster that encapsulates what popcorn entertainment is about. It’s not perfect, and at times it’s not even good, but the enjoyment you have while watching Jungle Cruise merits its existence.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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