Jungle Cruise review: The natural successor to The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean
The Rock and Emily Blunt's big blockbuster arrives this Friday.
Disney Studios have been playing it very, very safe of late. Between the pretty-much-guaranteed hits coming out of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, their own animated studio and the live-action remakes of their animated classics, it feels like it has been a while since they've embarked on a project that anyone might call risky.
There was a time about a decade ago when they were regularly taking big, expensive swings - Lone Ranger, John Carter, Tomorrowland - and they were all big, expensive misses, which probably goes some way to explain why they've become so gun shy towards embarking on anything approaching a "new" property.
The suggestion that Jungle Cruise - featuring two of the most likeable, most charismatic performers around, based on one of their own well-known theme park rides - feels risky at all is almost laughable, but this is still a $200 million production on an untested property, which was filmed in 2018 (??!!) and was delayed over and over again thanks to schedule clashes and then, yeah, the pandemic.
The good news here is Jungle Cruise feels like the natural successor to both The Mummy and the Pirates of the Caribbean, overflowing with charm and held in place by some stellar leading performances.
The bad news is that unlike the lightning-in-the-bottle magic that seemed to possess both of those movies, Jungle Cruise feels like it was created in a lab, specifically by someone who had a white board with the words "The Mummy + Pirates of the Caribbean = ???"
Unsurprisingly, both Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are an absolute joy in this throwback action adventure, both of them giddy at being the star of their own Indiana Jones movie.
Blunt is the scientist who wants to discover a rare plant that could change the future of medicine and Johnson is the rough 'n' ready boat captain who is hopefully just tough enough to get her down the Amazon and back in one piece. As far as plots go, that is about as complicated as it needs to be; give them a goal and let their natural on-screen chemistry do the rest.
Where the movie starts to falter is with an abundance of antagonists - Paul Giamatti, Edgar Ramirez and a scene-stealing Jesse Plemons all pop up with different evil motives - and an over-reliance on dodgy CGI. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, The Shallows) rummages up some decent set-pieces, but the smaller they are, the more effective they feel. Once the submarines and explosions and subterranean caves show up, the CGI fails to make any of it seem remotely real.
It is a shame that a big budget action movie is at its best when it is just two actors talking on a boat, but that is just further testament to Johnson and Blunt going all-in on the fun here, assisted by some genuinely funny dialogue.
Yes, there isn't a single second of originality on display - it is literally the "His and Her falling-in-love adventure" from The Mummy paired with the "leaning into the weirder aspects of a Disneyland attraction" from Pirates of the Caribbean - but sometimes knowing exactly what you're getting is exactly what you want.
However, as much as we'd love to see Johnson and Blunt share the screen in another jungle-set romp, considering the fates of The Mummy and the Pirates franchises, maybe we should be happy with this potentially being a one-and-done situation.
Jungle Cruise will be available to watch in cinemas in Ireland, and on Disney+ with Premier Access, from Friday 30 July.
Clips via Walt Disney Studios