Jungle Cruise, based on the at this point ancient Disney theme park ride, is stocked with bad puns, over plotting, and elaborate adventure set pieces that includes inexplicable Metallica infused orchestral cues. This is a big budget fantasy with two megawatt movie stars and animals that absolutely look CG. There are occasions where the screenwriters don’t feel the need to convince us that the two leads have fallen for each other. That’s just what happens in these thrill rides. That said, I found the picture to be an energetic ball of fun that kids will probably dig on several occasions. It comes close at times to matching the joyfulness of the first Pirates of the Caribbean and mostly avoids the tedium that cursed the sequels to varying degrees.
The film takes place in 1916, two years into World War I or The Great War at the time since the protagonists didn’t know a sequel was coming. Dr. Lily (Emily Blunt) is a botanist who believe she’s found the locale for the Tears of the Moon. That tree is said to break curses and offer healing powers for the ill. She wants to find it to advance medicine, but she lets her haughty yet stylish brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) try to sell potential funders. This is not a female friendly era after all. German royal Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) wants the Tears for more nefarious purposes. It involves using the Tears for fears and everybody wants to rule the world, don’t they? I can do bad puns too, folks!
Doc Lily and her brother need to find the Tree that is located deep in the Amazon River. Through a series of bumblings, her captain is Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson). He arrives with his rinky dink boat, his Jaguar avatar assistant Proxima, and a cast of supporting characters tasked with making the jungle seem more dangerous than it is. The real danger involves obtaining the life force that is the Tree with its magical petals. Not only is the deranged Prince pining for it, but so is the cursed and undead Pirates like Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his minions.
By the time our two leads have been bitten by the love bug, Jungle Cruise gives us numerous action sequences on a majestic scale. Jaume Collet-Serra, best known for directing mid to low budget Liam Neeson genre exercises or horror flicks like The Shallows, accustoms himself well to the Mouse Factory machine. As mentioned, Frank and Lily’s romance might come off a bit shallow and forced. Yet the grand entertainment offered up by their surroundings makes up for it. And Johnson and Blunt certainly have the charisma to carry us on the journey. You could even say that we’re far from the shallow now (bad pun for the win!).
One could nitpick or pay admission to the notion that this mostly delivers on the rendering of its ride translated to the big screen (or wherever you may roam while viewing on Disney Plus). I found it fairly easy to go with the latter.
*** (out of four)