Jungle Cruise benefits from the talents of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. This old fashioned, far-fetched adventure fantasy is based on a Disneyland attraction that’s been operating since 1955.
Set at the height of World War I, the film concerns a long-standing hunt for an elixir with remarkable healing powers. English botanist Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her reluctant brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) purloin an old artefact that they hope will unlock a centuries-old mystery. Solving the puzzle involves a river boat journey to the most dangerous part of the Amazon River. Dr Houghton engages decidedly shady skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to get them there. Wolff is in hock to Nilo (Paul Giamatti), who controls all the river boats in the region but his.
But the Houghtons aren’t the only ones chasing the holy grail. German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) will stop at nothing to get to the healing properties of what are known as The Tears of the Moon. While Wolff has a ramshackle wooden vessel, Joachim has a submarine with torpedoes, no less. After a decidedly shaky start, Wolff and Dr Houghton find a level of understanding, which is solidified when Wolff reveals a secret. Then it becomes a race to the finish line to see who will get their hands on a precious petal from a tree that can save lives.
Corny jokes, mock indignation and special effects wizardry are the order of the day. Let’s just say the origins of the story are totally preposterous. But in this case that hardly matters, because it’s the interplay between the principal characters that counts. The chemistry between Johnson and Blunt is strong. He adopts his usual wise-cracking persona and she’s as earnest as can be given the slapstick setting.
Visually, Jungle Cruise is easy to watch, thanks in part to direction from Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter). The set pieces involving mayhem and explosions serve the piece well. The visual effects are suitably impressive and advanced. At a tad over the two-hour mark though, the movie appears to have been unnecessarily stretched. Still, Jungle Cruise should appeal to younger audience members.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.