Movie Reviews

Jungle Cruise - Review

Disney make another one of their theme park rides into a movie... but does Jungle Cruise hit the heights of Pirates of the Caribbean?

AUGUST 3rd, 2021


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra | Cert: 12A | Runtime: 2h 7m

© Disney


n 2003 when Disney announced they were set to base their latest movie on one of their most iconic theme park rides, Pirates of the Caribbean, the movie world collectively laughed out loud. Who would pay to watch a film loosely based on a theme park attraction about pirates? Well, later that year Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl would become the biggest blockbuster of 2003, paving the way for one of Disney’s most successful and beloved franchises.

Fast forward to 2021, and after numerous delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney has once again ventured into adapting one of their most iconic theme park attractions into a movie - Jungle Cruise. In a similar fashion to Pirates, many critics questioned whether the adventure story could match its predecessor, or whether it would suffer a similar fate to the less than impressive counter attempt to adapt one of their rides, The Haunted Mansion.

The Trailer for "Jungle Cruise" - © Disney

Within the first five minutes of the movie, the odds very quickly lean towards Pirates of the Caribbean territory. It must be acknowledged that Jungle Cruise doesn’t hit the high notes of the swashbuckling franchise which gave us arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest modern-day characters, Jack Sparrow, but it still packs a punch - with Dwayne Johnson teaming up with Emily Blunt, that isn’t necessarily a surprise.

From the off the action is swift and continuous, reminiscent of the Indiana Jones movies. Johnson plays Frank, a skipper of a rundown river cruise boat who takes tourists into the heart of the jungle. Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton, alongside her brother MacGregor (an hilarious Jack Whitehall), seek out the musclebound skipper in the hope he can help them discover the legendary ‘Tears of the Moon’ - a magical tree which heals all illnesses and lifts any curse.

The story follows the traditional adventure concept, mixing mythical legends, cursed Spanish conquistadors taken and imprisoned by the jungle, a pampered German prince, and a race against time to discover the all-healing ‘Tears of the Moon’, all wrapped into a thrilling high-octane movie that is certain to satisfy Disney fans and movie goers alike.

And although there is much to celebrate about Jungle Cruise, it isn’t as perfect as Pirates. That is partly down to them sharing many similarities, but whereas Pirates of the Caribbean consistently hits home runs with every attempt, Jungle Cruise occasionally falters. One area this occurs is in the pacing of the movie. It takes a while before the plotline gets moving, concentrating on action instead of fully introducing the characters and their relationships with one another.

Emily Blunt stars alongside Dwayne Johnson and Jack Whitehall. - © Disney

There are some sweet moments, however. MacGregor discussing his sexuality is handled with care and feels organic to the story. The closing moments of the third act also tug on the heart strings, which in part is down to the expert jobs Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt deliver in their roles.

Édgar Ramírez is brilliant as the cursed Spanish conquistador Don Aguirre, though is criminally underused and frustratingly his character's conclusion is somewhat underwhelming. Jesse Plemons as the eccentric and ruthless Prince Joachim simply steals the movie. His performance is outstanding and is delivered with surprising ease.

Mixing heart, adventure and all round fun, Jungle Cruise is Disney in their element - creating a blockbusting thrill ride which keeps you entertained from beginning to end.

Delayed by the pandemic for a year after sitting in Disney development purgatory since 2007, Jungle Cruise had a lot to prove. Disney has an impressive catalogue of theme park rides of which they can develop into blockbusters. With Pirates of the Caribbean they struck gold with a solid platform to propel what has become one of their biggest franchises. Jungle Cruise may not match the success of the original theme park attraction to movie concept, but it does come close with enough groundwork and potential to spark a franchise of its own.

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