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Film Review

JUNGLE CRUISE (2021) Review

Neil reviews Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE calling it “a proper family-friendly action-adventure.” Catch it in cinemas and on Disney+ from Friday.

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Jungle Cruise (Walt Disney Studios)

Jungle Cruise hits cinemas and Disney+ Premier Access on July 30, 2021.

Synopsis

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is an adventure-filled, rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila—his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate—and mankind’s—hangs in the balance.

Reivew

Over the course of the last decade many have tried to re-capture the excitement of Pirates of the Caribbean. Few have come close to reigniting the box office with the same level of buzz as Pirates or even Indiana Jones in the 1980’s.

With Jungle Cruise Disney has come within touching distance of birthing an exciting new family-friendly franchise. Director Jaume Collet-Serra has assembled a strong cast and an excellent script. Moreover, it’s abundantly clear that the cast had a blast making the movie. It translates to a wonderful, laugh-out-loud viewing experience. However, Jungle Cruise does hold itself back in certain aspects.

There’s a palpable reverence for classic adventure movies, particularly 1999’s The Mummy. Dwayne Johnson’s Frank can be easily transposed for Brendan Fraiser’s Rick O’Connell. Likewise Emily Blunt’s Lily is an excellent contemporary for Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan. Equally, Jack Whitehall’s hilarious MacGregor fills the sibling role played by John Hannah in The Mummy. Make no mistake, these are not carbon copies. But it does make Jungle Cruise feel a little derivative.

Thankfully this is where my issues with Jungle Cruise end. Blunt and Johnson have enjoyable on screen chemistry, easily carrying the film through its 127 minute runtime. Their chemistry runs deep enough to make a blossoming romance feel authentic in amongst the action. In addition, Blunt has an organic sibling relationship with Jack Whitehall. Given his status as a relative newcomer to Hollywood, Whitehall holds his own against much bigger names.

There will undoubtedly be some who disagree with Whitehall’s casting as MacGregor. Whilst there is a valid argument for gay actors in gay roles, Whitehall portrays MacGregor in earnest. His coming out scene proving to be one of the film’s most emotional moments. It’s also important to note that in the third act he becomes a major player, proving his usefulness and defying stereotypes.

Hats off to Jesse Plemmons for one of the best big-screen pantomime villains in decades. Prince Joachim is a perfectly deplorable-yet-hilarious Disney villain. Also his delivery of a German accent is exactly what Jungle Cruise needs to ensure it never veers in to scary territory for the younger members of the audience.

Jaume Collet-Serra’s horror roots shine through seamlessly. Chiefly, flourishes of horror accentuate the jungle landscape to raise the stakes. Collet-Serra’s experience pushes Jungle Cruise beyond the more childish sensibilities of Pirates of the Caribbean. Additionally, it’s impressive to see Disney reaching beyond the successful Pirates formula.

Jungle Cruise‘s outstanding visuals are further elevated by a brilliant score from James Newton Howard. All the ingredients for a perfect score are there: memorable themes; bombastic action and quieter emotional moments. I’m excited to hear the standalone album. These are the kinds of iconic themes which could carry the characters through a future franchise.

It comes as no surprise that the visual effects are mostly top-notch. The jungle feels alive, populated with plenty of weird and wonderful creatures. Likewise action sequences on the river are all brilliantly executed through a mix of practical and visual effects. But as the story escalates so too do the special effects and this does lead to the third act looking a little rough around the edges. When the legendary Tree of Life blooms it puts a spotlight on some of the green screen heavy work. But on the whole Jungle Cruise is a top tier blockbuster.

Verdict

Jungle Cruise is a tonne of fun. A proper family-friendly action-adventure ripped from the heyday of Indiana Jones. Blunt and Johnson are the perfect charismatic leads. Whilst Jack Whitehall is an absolute scene stealer!


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