Jungle Cruise (2021)
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written By: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Edgar Ramirez
What happens when you combine Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull with Pirates of The Caribbean? Well, you get Disney’s Jungle Cruise. Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson unite on a family friendly trip down the Amazon river in search for an ancient tree with unmatched healing abilities.
Where this movie succeeds and where it fails are on either side of the filmmaking spectrum. On one side you have a great cast, with outstanding chemistry. You have fun action and a movie that can be enjoyed by the entire family. But on the other side, the negative side. You have some bad CGI, a terrible villain and a ho hum plot. As the summer movie season kicks into high gear, people are headed back to the theatres or stuck on their couch with Premier Access. I think Jungle Cruise is a good enough time for you to invest your dollars.
Let’s get the negative out of the way and we will end on the high note.
Jesse Plemons is our main villain with his menacing Prince Joachim. Plemons plays a villain pretty well, but in this case he’s rather boring and a little too on the nose with his “villainous”. He plays it up with humour, and I get that it’s a Disney movie, but I never really felt that he would ever do anything that would actually hurt or kill anyone. Even with the moments that he is being diabolical and evil, I never felt that he was an actual foil for Blunt and Johnson’s characters. As for the “other” villain, I think that’s a bit of a spoiler, but just know that it’s basically the same from one villain to the next.
As for the other negative, the bad CGI, and it’s bad, like 20 years ago bad. I mentioned that this movie felt like one half of Pirates of the Caribbean. One of the things that PotC had going for it was the outstanding CGI work, particularly in Dead Man’s Chest. But the CGI work in Jungle Cruise is relied on way too much, and in doing so, everything looks fake. It’s not like everything could be done super realistic, it’s a supernatural adventure movie set in 1916 Brazil. I get it, but we are at a time with movies, that CGI in movies shouldn’t necessarily make you think that everything you see is real. What it should do is make you not think it’s fake. You shouldn’t notice it. Particularly the final act, it looks like Blunt and co are just running from one green screen to the next. It was noticeable enough for me that I found it off putting. Seeing the movie on the biggest screen in a theatre or at home with Premier Access, it cannot look as dated as Jungle Cruise does.
Now for the good, and that is Johnson’s Frank and Blunt’s Lily, and to a lesser but still funny extent, Jack Whitehall’s Macgregor. The chemistry and banter amongst our heroes is something that will make me and my family come back to watch this movie again. I laughed out loud, as did my wife. Johnson has a charisma that he brings to most of his movies, and with his deep vocals and thunderous stature, he commands the screen every time he is on it. But this movie is a vehicle for Emily Blunt’s Lily. Blunt is charming, sweet and a total badass. With Lily, she is where I get the Indiana Jones vibes from, she is a woman of science, the archaeologist type. Blunt is one of the best actors in Hollywood today and seeing her in this bigger than life movie, and being the action star that she can be is a joy. She is just as much of a star as Johnson is, and with her acting skills that do outweigh Johnsons easily, she is the true star of this movie.
I watched it with my wife and son and believe that this movie can be enjoyed by everyone of every age. It has a ton of laughs and some great action set pieces, alongside a fun and energetic score, that make the two hours movie fly by. Director Jaume Collet-Serra who we will see again directing Johnson in DCs Black Adam, does an admirable job bringing together a big cast, large action beats and bigger story. It’s tough to lay the CGI on him or even the middle of the road plot and script, but bringing the world of Jungle Cruise to life and watching our characters traverse the Amazon, I say he did his job. To make a movie based on a ride a ride ala Pirates of the Caribbean, that’s challenging enough.
The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Pirate of the Caribbean have made a love child and that child is Jungle Cruise. It’s not a perfect movie, heck it’s not even a great one. Johnson, Blunt, and co will keep you coming back for more. Just understand that everything you see and hear are not at the level of what I or you should expect from a big budget Disney flick. But take a ride, and let go of life and cruise down the river.