The Movie Guru: Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” a fun family adventure
Movie Guru gives “Jungle Cruise” three stars
When I say that a movie reminds me of “The Mummy” (1999), I mean it as a compliment.
That’s the case with Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” which opens in theaters and premiers on Disney+ Premiere Access this Friday. Though the movie doesn’t quite live up to the sheer entertainment provided by Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz’s cult classic, it manages to capture many of the essential elements. There’s a gung-ho academic played by a fantastic actress, a ridiculous brother with hidden depths, a genuinely sweet sibling dynamic, an implausible but rousing adventure, and a good mix of comedy and more serious moments. It’s far from perfect, but it’s hard not to enjoy yourself while you’re watching it.
Our academic here is Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), who steals a relic from the local adventurer’s club so she can find a tree with magical healing properties in the Amazon. Her high-society brother (Jack Whitehall) gets roped into going along, and they end up hiring a boat captain named Frank (Dwayne Johnson) with his own secret agenda. When they discover that an angry German prince and a troop of cursed Spanish soldiers want the tree’s powers for themselves, the trio must fight for their lives in their quest to unlock the jungle’s secrets.
I’m always a sucker for a good adventure story, and “Jungle Cruise” manages to be a lot of fun. You’ll be reminded of movies like “The Mummy” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” more than once, but never because it feels like a copy. There are plenty of the same tropes at play, yes, but “Jungle Cruise” remixes them just enough that it still feels like a ride worth taking on its own merits. There’s even a fairly interesting plot twist partway through that I didn’t see coming, which is a fairly tough thing to do in this genre. More surprisingly, it makes the rest of the movie feel slightly more meaningful.
Blunt is a delight as Lily, charming to watch and full of determination. Whitehall is just as good as her brother, embracing the comic relief while always making sure his character comes across as more than a joke. The two have great chemistry together, and though they’re very different the actors never let you doubt how much they love each other. Jesse Plemons brings a surprising amount of menace to a villain who sometimes threatens to tip over into a joke, and Veronica Falcón was entertaining every moment she was onscreen.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Sadly, Johnson felt somewhat miscast as the third part of the main trio. As much as I love the man, he didn’t seem to have the fluidity and range to make his cynical con man character come to life as much as he needed to. He does end up settling into the role somewhat as the movie progresses, but never enough to fully erase the slightly awkward, out-of-place feeling he brings to the role.
There’s also a few smaller issues, including the decision not to subtitle one several conversations in Spanish and German, but they’re not enough to sink the movie’s entertainment value. If you’re at all fond of family-friendly adventure movies, this “Jungle Cruise” is definitely worth the ride.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.