Jungle Cruise is a fun Disney adventure film. It has the right balance of homage to the ride and something new. There’s plenty of action for both Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt and it doesn’t overstay its welcome at a solid two hours, though it does go overboard by the end.
Take a ‘Jungle Cruise’ with Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt
Jungle Cruise first introduces Lily Houghton (Blunt) not being taken seriously by the all male scientific community in 1916 London. She’s mistaken for a secretary by the villain Joachim (Jesse Plemons). So Lily and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) travel to Brazil to locate the Tears of the Moon for their legendary healing powers.
Frank Wolff (Johnson) leads tourist cruises down the Amazon on his rickety boat. He has to kick the engine to make it work like The African Queen, but The Rock only needs one kick to make it go. Frank also makes dad jokes a la the schtick of the Disney Jungle Cruise captains. Lily and MacGregor charter Frank’s boat for their quest.
‘Jungle Cruise’ action is better than most of Dwayne Johnson’s action movies
Considering Johnson’s success as an action hero, few of his action movies are memorable. He gets some bombastic moves in the Fast and the Furious movies, and Skyscraper had elaborate set pieces. But his G.I. Joe, Rampage and Hercules movies are overshadowed by his family comedies. Even Jumanji emphasizes the comedy.
In Jungle Cruise, Lily still gets the more fun action scenes. She playfully slides under tables and uses the environment in fight scenes, with some Rube Goldberg-like chain reactions to extend the danger. Frank gamely is the butt of slapstick jokes while he receives as much of a beating as he dishes out. Frank himself wrestles a jaguar and commands the boat in derring maneuvers.
Jungle Cruise ends with a lot of CGI and gets hyper with Frank punching a lot of visual effets. There may be some real performance under the creatures so Johnson is at least interacting with something, but it gets video gamey and you go numb to it.
A feminist, inclusive adventure
If Jungle Cruise were truly historically accurate, Lily’s treatment by men would undoubtably be worse. They really harp on her wearing pants in this movie. Frank even nicknames her Pants. That’s what passes for feminism, but Lily does her with no regard to such diminishing remarks.
MacGregor is a progressive character for a mainstream studio family movie in that he’s gay in a very unaccepting society. They don’t use the G word but he refers to “who I love” as a reason his family abandoned him except for Lily. He’s still the sidekick who shows that Frank is evolved enough to be compassionate towards him in 1916, but maybe one day we can have a badass gay action hero.
Jungle Cruise is not the movie people are turning to to solve society’s woes. So it’s baby steps of inclusion, and as long as it’s going there it could do more, but we’re getting there with big Disney movies even paying attention to it. In the meantime, watch Johnson and Blunt traverse ancient chambers and solve puzzles for fun.