Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti
Run Time: 127 mins
Jungle Cruise is an action-adventure film from Disney based on an amusement park theme ride of the same name. It stars Dwayne Johnson as Skipper, the captain of a small riverboat who takes Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother (Jack Whitehall) through the Amazon in search of the Tree of Life for its illness-curing properties. The film is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed the horror film Orphan, a speight of Liam Neeson action thrillers and most recently, The Shallows, a shark attack film. Collet-Serra’s filmography has been a mixed bag. Orphan had a strong premise but its execution at times, was laughable. Of the four Liam Neeson thrillers that Collet-Serra helmed, Run All Night had the most flair and was an entertaining ride with some excellent set pieces. The Shallows received strong reviews but I found it to be very disappointing with a hammy performance from Blake Lively and it lacked tension.
Jungle Cruise is an entertaining yet derivative romp and its tone draws numerous comparisons to Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones and Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy series. There are some creative action sequences and the character development is amiable. Johnson and Blunt are both clearly having a good time and share an excellent chemistry together. The script is reasonably sharp, although it does lean into and embrace its cliches.
On the other hand, the film has many problems. The visual effects are surprisingly very poor for a film with a $200 million budget, especially the unconvincing CGI animals. It is also overlong and could easily have had twenty minutes or so cut from it. Length hasn’t been a problem with Collet-Serra’s works before as his films have always had an economical pacing.
The film makes some graceless attempts at updating Disney’s image through the representation of sex and gender but it’s rather pandering and misconceived. Johnson’s stardom feels as if he is caged by Disney and he is unable to fully open up his talents and humour in his performance.
There is not much of Collet-Serra’s authorship on show here and this film feels very much like it was directed by a committee. It is always difficult when well established directors take on a studio property, having to walk a tightrope between their vision and the corporate vision.
Jungle Cruise is ultimately a solid action-adventure film to grace our screens this Summer and the characters it introduces are more than ripe for any sequels that Disney will inevitably create. I’d like to see more of a director’s touch to the material and for the film to take a few more risks in its narrative and characters in a future instalment.