Disney USA 2021
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Well this is a huge slice of fun filled family adventure for cinemagoers, during the illusory 'let up' from the perils of Covid. Jungle Cruise is based on the long standing Disney theme park ride of the same name and was originally started into development after the success of the first of the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies (also based on a Disney ride with a long history). It wasn’t until Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) came along as a producing partner that the film finally got properly off the ground and realised in the form you see it in now. Which is pretty much an action adventure much like the Indiana Jones, Lara Croft or Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy movies.
After a long, historical flash back sequence filling in the audience of a plot device involving the magical, supernaturally charged ‘Petals Of The Moon’ which can cure all ills and can be found with the aid of a specific sacred arrow head, if it happens to be in your possession... the film starts off in “London, England 1916 - Two years into the Great War.” Here we meet adventuress Lily Houghton, played by the always brilliant Emily Blunt and her brother, played by Jack Whitehall, as she manages to ‘acquire’ the arrowhead to enable her, in theory, to track down the Petals Of The Moon. We then get yet another long but very funny sequence set in Brazil (where much of the action takes place), where we are introduced to river cruise skipper Frank Wolff, played by Dwayne Johnson. It’s only after this third, long introduction that we finally get the opening credits.
Then, when Lily turns up in Brazil, she charters Frank’s boat and services on the long expedition into the jungle to find the mysterious petals, being chased and threatened by a real life German villain, Prince Joachim, played by Jesse Plemons, who also wants to harness the petals for his own nefarious purposes. And we also have some other fine actors and actresses rounding off the cast too, like the magnificent Paul Giamatti, the wonderful Veronica Falcón (Perry Mason’s Mexican girlfriend in the first season of the latest TV show about that character) and Edgar Ramírez playing the conquistador Aguirre. And, yes, that’s the same Aguirre who was also portrayed on film by Klaus Kinski in Herzog’s Aguirre - The Wrath Of God.
Also, the movie both honours the Disney theme park attraction it was based on but, furthermore, there are both visual and verbal shout outs to the film that inspired that ride scattered throughout. Namely the brilliant Humphrey Bogart, Katy Hepburn, John Huston movie The African Queen... although the spirit of the movie is somewhat different in its execution here.
And its great... full of spectacular and unlikely action set pieces and comedy which are just the ticket for a wonderful evening’s entertainment... all helped along by a rousing score (sadly not on a CD so I can’t hear it away from the movie) by James Newton-Howard. And if that wasn’t enough, Johnson cracks what have now become known as ‘dad jokes’ all the way through. And when I say ‘dad jokes’ of course, I really mean excruciatingly brilliant puns which endeared me to his character no end. Yep, this film is absolutely puntastic, it has to be said. Lines like “We’re heading into headhunter territory, which is a terrible place to be-headed.” are the best way to this cinema-goer’s heart, for sure and I think every movie should feature more lines like this.
And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a beautifully rendered alternative look at the ‘animated lines on a map’ style of giving the audience a geography fix and, about three quarters of the way through, an absolutely brilliant character reveal which ties one of the main characters into the shenanigans at the set up of the movie, going back all those hundreds of years. It’s really great stuff and even has a cute CGI leopard as Frank’s constant companion. Although... about that...
Okay, so there’s usually one thing wrong, at least, with a movie and sadly, like so many other modern film’s Achilles heel, it’s the CGI animals. None of the animals look really very good but, bearing in mind how much training and other tomfoolery you would have had to do with various creatures to satisfy the writing, I think it’s a fair trade off and you just have to suspend your disbelief for that element of the film.
And that’s me done on Jungle Cruise. It’s a short review of a long movie but, honestly, there’s not too much to say about it because it’s an absolutely perfect family fun adventure film which really captivates and entertains from beginning to end. I will absolutely be first in line to grab this when it comes out on Blu Ray so I can show it to my family on Christmas Eve this year. I loved it and would absolutely recommend this one to most people I know.