Jungle Cruise

  • 14 Aug - 20 Aug, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Sometimes, it’s not the reboots and remakes that make you despair of Hollywood’s lack of originality. Sometimes it’s a theoretically original film like this, another attempt to turn a Disneyland ride into a big-screen franchise. As you watch Jaume Collet-Serra’s adventure, you’re haunted by the unpleasant feeling that this is a supposedly fun thing that’s already been done before. It’s only thanks to Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt that the result holds the attention, and it’s a credit to them that it’s entertaining at all.

The ride that inspired this is a slightly insipid glide past animatronic animals. For the big screen we’re in the Amazon in 1916, where Captain Frank (Johnson) is engaged to take scientist Lily (Blunt) on a hunt for “el flor de la luna”, a mythical flower that can cure all ills. Her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) is along for the ride as they follow in the footsteps of conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez).

If you enjoyed Rachel Weisz’s plucky librarian in The Mummy, you’ll love Blunt’s plucky scientist, also tottering about on a library ladder and railing against the sexist scholars who won’t grant her the academic recognition she deserves. Johnson’s scoundrel captain, meanwhile, may recall a certain Corellian smuggler, or a Caribbean pirate.

It’s not badly done by any means, with lovely animal effects, big, well-staged chases and lots of antics for Blunt and Johnson. Yet it’s deathly derivative. Action beats are lifted from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and there are endless references to The Mummy. Orphan filmmaker Collet-Serra manages to inject some nuance into the portrayal of an Amazonian populace, led by Veronica Falcón’s Trader Sam, and gives Jesse Plemons an entertainingly outrageous accent as a German princeling.

But with a budget this big and a crew this talented, the film shouldn’t be this reliant on Blunt and Johnson’s bickering to hold the attention. In his fourth jungle outing, Johnson gives good world-weary, and Blunt’s bossiness sparks off him nicely. They don’t have much romantic chemistry but they do make for a fun odd couple, and at times they’re the only thing stopping you from throwing yourself to the piranhas. When did on-screen adventure start to feel so planned?