My Celebrity Life

Jungle Cruise review: A daft and daring adventure ready to sweep you along for the ridiculous ride – if you let it

My Celebrity Life –

Dwayne Johnson’s skipper helms the adventure alongside Emily Blunt’s Lily (Picture: Disney)

To fully enjoy Disney’s Jungle Cruise, you need to get on board with its rampant ridiculousness, from pantomime German baddies to tame CGI leopards, zombie conquistadors, and magical flowers.

Subtle it isn’t, but if you’re in the mood for action, adventure and comedy then this film pretty much fires on all cylinders, bar the occasional sputter – and some rather familiar scenery.

With wise-cracking hero Frank ‘Skipper’ Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), feisty female lead Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her reluctant but amusing brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) teaming up to search the Amazon for a legendary flower with magical healing properties found in a mythical place, just swap ‘the Amazon’ for ‘Egypt’ and ‘flower’ for ‘the Book of Amun-Ra’ and it’s The Mummy (1999).

There’s also surprising levels of supernatural gruesomeness from the cursed conquistadors, just like in The Mummy or, more strikingly, the zombie crew in Pirates of the Caribbean. Basically, you don’t have to guess which films Disney had pinned to their inspiration board (you can also add Indiana Jones).

However, Jungle Cruise has enough of its own thing going on to emerge from underneath these similarities, and that’s mainly down to great performances and a healthy respect for its inspiration.

Based on a classic Disney theme park ride, which served as an opening day attraction for Disneyland in 1955 and still operates in four Disney parks globally, the Jungle Cruise film has clearly been developed with love by fans of the ride.

My Celebrity Life –

The trio of characters bears a strong resemblance to those in The Mummy (Picture: Disney)

My Celebrity Life –

Adventure awaits in the Amazon (Picture: Disney)

The spirit and success of this simple boat ride with animatronic animals is mostly in the comedic narration provided by each skipper in the parks – and Dwayne Johnson embodies the corny, sometimes sarcastic nature of this really well.

Johnson understands his precious role, as do the writers in providing Jungle Cruise ride references, and he delivers some of the attraction’s trademark lines with aplomb (yes, ‘back side of water’, but listen out for a ‘boulder’ pun or two, and enjoy the extra meta-ness provided by The Rock discussing, well, rocks). He incorporates the shyster nature perfectly with his ‘jungle cruise’ of fake props, too. The iconic but problematic Trader Sam character also makes an appearance, but is re-imagined in a fun way.

Johnson and Blunt conjure good chemistry in a standard romance subplot, which they just about have enough charisma to get away with. Blunt is also the perfect uptight foil to Johnson’s wise guy lead, and they (mostly) escape the Evie and Rick O’Connell comparisons through sheer force of personality.

My Celebrity Life –

Dwayne Johnson’s character honours over 60 years of the skipper role on the Disney ride (Picture: Disney)

My Celebrity Life –

Johnson and Blunt enjoy good chemistry (Picture: Disney)

With every possibility of being excruciatingly annoying as the pathetic MacGregor, Jack Whitehall is a pleasant surprise. The script works with his style of humour, playing to his strengths and allowing him a fair few decent laughs. Plus, in him, Disney finally has its first official – no wink, no one passing comment – out gay character in a major film, laid out explicitly in a scene with The Rock, rather than hiding the suggestion of it more in subtext. There’s also a fantastic section of rather eyebrow-raising double entendres (for Disney) that is sure to go down well with British audiences.

Jesse Plemons is a treat as the dastardly Prince Joachim, Kaiser Wilhelm’s son, knowing exactly what movie he’s in as he serves over-the-top 1916 wartime ‘baddie’ with a side of sauerkraut (and some impeccable German). Edgar Ramírez’s Aguirre gets rather left in the dust, as he grapples with the film’s most glaringly underwritten role but still manages to succeed at menacing. A word of warning: if you don’t like snakes, you will have a tough time with Aguirre; he and his cronies are a large part of the film’s 12A rating.

My Celebrity Life –

Jack Whitehall’s MacGregor is not nearly as excited for the adventure as his sister (Picture: Disney)

Disney is restrained with any suggestion of a sequel (there’s no end credit scene) – and that is to this film’s advantage. A Jungle Cruise series risks steering this property into bloated, over-complicated territory, as with Pirates of the Caribbean. However, hints at Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers (look out for Albert Falls) could lead it down a more original route, if the studio chooses.

There’s no doubt that Jungle Cruise is a pretty preposterous film, but if you’re ready to entirely suspend your disbelief and lean into that, you’ll be navigated through a voyage with some occasionally rough waters before docking safely – and satisfyingly – at the end.

Jungle Cruise is released in cinemas and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30.

Credit: Original article published here.

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