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Movie Review – Jungle Cruise (2021)

Jungle Cruise, 2021.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti and Veronica Falcon.



Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) is in trouble. With his engine confiscated, money owing and few opportunities circumstance introduces him to Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt). With an old map, pounds of pluck and a brother in tow she is looking for passage up the river. Destiny it seems is not without a sense of humour.


There is no denying the derivative nature of Disney’s Jungle Cruise, which conveniently cherry picks franchise favourite moments from some real classics. Indiana Jones and The Pirates portfolio are mercilessly plundered, while even Harold Lloyd’s Safety First gets a hat tip. However, that this homage to the theme park ride still feels fresh, comes down to some solid work from three people.

Dwayne Johnson is first up as swashbuckling steamboat captain Frank Wolff, who makes his money swindling unsuspecting tourists. This one man business empire has rarely been on better form, delivering awful puns and charming everyone within earshot. It is a measure of Dwayne Johnson’s maturity, that Frank Wolff remains the right side of affable without veering into arrogance. Every inch the matinee idol, he is self-assured and provides a solid foundation for his co-stars Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall.

Snappy dialogue and dexterous set pieces keep Jungle Cruise buoyant, while Emily Blunt channels vintage Katherine Hepburn by way of Rachel Weisz. Mixing physical slapstick and solid stunt work as Lily Houghton, she proves her versatility throughout opposite an erstwhile Cary Grant. Their verbal exchanges are inventive, laced with subtle sarcasm and establish tone from the outset. However, these two are almost overshadowing by the minor miracle of Jack Whitehall.


Deploying his deft comic timing with subtlety, Jack Whitehall does more than his fair share of scene stealing. As MacGregor Houghton, he proves to be the perfect foil for both Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. By playing to his strengths and embracing that upper crust English elitism, Jack Whitehall imbues MacGregor with an understated vulnerability. Taking up the mantle where Denholm Elliott left off in Indiana Jones, MacGregor gives Jungle Cruise its beating heart and holds his own opposite charisma machine Dwayne Johnson. A fact which becomes increasingly essential when Jesse Plemons comes on screen early on as Prince Joachim.

Cartoon caricatures and outlandish accents are the domain of vaudeville villainy. As the jack-booted Prince Joachim, Jesse Plemons embraces both wholeheartedly. Channelling a childish impatience alongside more malevolent traits, he has the moral compass of an animated Jafar. A fact which keeps him two dimensional, as any attempt by the writers to imbue depth through dialogue is hampered by pounds of ham. Unfortunately, while Jesse Plemons hams it up Edgar Ramirez’s Aguirre gets side lined beneath excessive VFX, in a supporting role which lacks substance.

That niggle aside, with a MacGuffin which feels like mid-level Lucasfilm, this movie creates just enough cinematic mythology to get behind. Brazilian rainforests, subterranean temples and cursed conquistadors put meat on the bone, while life giving flower petals add whimsy. With Michael Green, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa on script duties what audiences get is something polished. With Logan and Blade Runner 2049 to his name Michael Green may know a thing or two about delivering genre defining work, but Jungle Cruise never pretends to be that. However, neither does it deserve to be thrown under the bus for being derivative.


It sets out to achieve one aim which is to entertain audiences. Headed up by a gung-ho cast who dive into the premise with gusto, there is no denying its feelgood factor or shameless sense of fun. Something which can be overlooked by hard hearted cinema goers, quick to condemn a film for daring to make people smile.

Jungle Cruise is in cinemas and available on Premiere Access through Disney+ from July 30th.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Martin Carr


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