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Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment

Disney struck box-office gold eighteen years ago when they successfully turned their own ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ theme-park attraction into a lucrative film franchise headlined by Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. In order to replicate their success, they transform another of their successful theme-park attractions into a big-screen adventure. The theme-park attraction in question is ‘Jungle Cruise,’ which has been a constant in Disneyland for nearly 65 years, since its debut in 1955.

The big-screen version was supposed to be released on October 11, 2019, however it was later pushed back to July 24, 2020. Then there was the COVID-19 pandemic last year, which forced theatres to close for months in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. ‘Jungle Cruise,’ like other major Hollywood films set for a 2020 release, succumbed to the pandemic. Now that the film has been distributed not only in cinemas but also on Disney+ via Premier Access, a crucial question arises: Is ‘Jungle Cruise’ still worth the wait after all this time?

Well, as much as I hate to admit it, the film is a snoozer. Given that this is Jaume Collet-first Serra’s step into big-budget studio filmmaking, it should have been something to look forward to. Furthermore, this is the same Spanish-American director that brought us some of Liam Neeson’s most engaging thrillers, including ‘Non Stop’ (2014) and ‘The Commuter’ (2018), as well as the thrilling shark thriller ‘The Shallows’ (2016) starring Blake Lively.

Before we go into the things that go wrong in ‘Jungle Cruise,’ let’s recap the plot: The plot is set in 1916, at the height of World War I, and follows a scientist/explorer Lily (Emily Blunt) and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) on a quest to find the magical flower capable of cure all types of maladies. But she isn’t the only one looking for the same flower, as a scheming German prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) is as well. Lily hires a riverboat guide named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to take them deep into the Amazonian jungle in order to find the blossom. From there, they encounter a variety of problems along the way, including the customary bickering between Lily and Frank. Speaking of difficulties, ‘Jungle Cruise’ has a clear homage to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ in which they fight undead Spanish conquistadors rather than pirates headed by Edgar Ramirez as Aguirre.

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Drawing influence from some of the most iconic action-adventure films, including 1951’s ‘The African Queen,’ 1981’s ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ 1999’s ‘The Mummy,’ and, of course, the aforementioned ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’ ‘Jungle Cruise’ had the potential to be a terrific entertaining ride. However, Collet-Serra could only produce a few random moments of entertainment, most notably a ladder scene early in the film and another scenario with a riverboat sailing through white water rapids. And, despite having a massive US$200 million budget at his disposal, most of the CGI in this film is either sloppy or overly evident (Frank’s pet jaguar, Proxima, comes to mind). Even the Amazon jungle location is highly reliant on computer realism, so practically everything here lacks the visceral — high-stakes scenario that this type of action-adventure film requires.

‘Jungle Cruise’ is also a little too long at just over two hours, which doesn’t help when the story — credited to Michael Green (‘Logan,’ ‘Murder on the Orient Express’), Glenn Ficarra, and John Requa (‘Bad Santa,’ ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’) — is nothing more than a generic action-adventure that shamelessly rips off other similar genre films. While ‘Jungle Cruise’ does take an unexpected turn midway through the film, the element of surprise is very fleeting as the journey continues to be turbulent. A shorter running time, perhaps 90-100 minutes, and a faster tempo would have helped the film more.

If there are any consolation prizes in this film, it’s that Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson have fantastic chemistry as an unusual couple. They reminded me of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in ‘Romancing the Stone,’ and Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in ‘The Mummy,’ both from 1984. Blunt’s fierce performance as Lily is a scene-stealer in particular. As Lily’s “wimpy” brother, MacGregor, Jack Whitehall provides adequate comic relief, while Jesse Plemons’ evil turn as Prince Joachim with a strange German accent offers a few amusing moments. Unfortunately, both Edgar Ramirez’s role as the leader of the zombie Spanish conquistadors and Paul Giamatti’s part as a harbormaster are underutilized.

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Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment
Jungle Cruise Review: Is a Major Disappointment

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