Welcome to the jungle.
Specifically, it’s the Amazon, where scientist Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), along with her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), head to find the mysterious and elusive tree petals called “Tears of the Moon.” They only grow on one tree in the entire jungle, so they definitely need some help getting there. Enter: The Rock.
In Jungle Cruise, Dwayne Johnson is Frank the charming river guide, who delivers the puns and dad jokes along with some expert navigation. Together, the trio — along with some other pals — venture down the river in search of the powerful leaves (called “petals” throughout), which are said to be able to heal any human ailment. Of course, there are some villains along the way, out to use the magical tree for nefarious purposes.
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Jungle Cruise is your typical family fare, with a lot of fun for the kids and some nudge-nudge jokes for the adults.
Is it pretty much just for children?
Fast-paced and sometimes silly, the movie was definitely made with children in mind, but that doesn’t impede its appeal to adults as well. While most grown-ups will know exactly what’s going to happen by film’s end, it’s still a wild, fun ride getting there. There’s enough humour, sarcasm and visual splendour to keep you entertained. In fact, as the movie hums along, it’s easy to conceptualize the eventual amusement park ride that’ll be crafted in the film’s image. River rapids? Check. A large waterfall? Check. Piranhas? Check. Coming to a Disney park near you in 2023.
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Blunt and Johnson seem like an odd pair. Do they work as a twosome?
To my surprise, they work very well, playing off of each other with Lily’s dry sarcasm and Frank’s wry remarks. They’re true to the formula of many romantic comedies: what starts off as hate slowly morphs into love. Most adults should be able to see it coming a mile away, but again it’s a fun journey getting there. You root for them, and it’s all very sweet.
One refreshing element is that Lily is fully capable of taking matters into her own hands. She doesn’t have to wait for Frank to save the day in every instance (though he does sometimes), and it’s always nice to see an assertive, powerful woman getting the job done. The movie doesn’t spend too much time on the issue of women’s rights, but it’s based in 1916 — when there were barely any rights to speak of — and in one scene, the movie makes an outright (deserved) mockery of men refusing to give women the floor.
Johnson’s never-ending charm, on full display here, shows no signs of abating.
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You mentioned a villain. Who is that?
Ah, the delicious ridiculousness of Jungle Cruise‘s villain, Prince Joachim, played by Jesse Plemons. An off-the-wall German obsessed with the legend of the river and the tree, he resorts to whatever tactics are necessary to get his hands on the petals, including bringing a full-on submarine into the Amazon River. Why not?
Joachim is essentially a WWI-era brute driven by madness and money, replete with German accent. Paul Giamatti plays another pseudo-villain, Nilo, and a group of long-dead conquistadors come back to life to stop Lily and Frank. Clearly, there’s no shortage of roadblocks for our heroes.
So what’s the bottom line?
The two-hour Jungle Cruise is a heartwarming romp for both kids and adults, a fun adventure for the whole family. It feels like going on a trip across the world after being cooped up in a house for almost two years, and must feel even more liberating for children. I only hope you can stomach all the groan-worthy puns along the way.
‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres on Friday, July 30 in theatres and on Disney+ with Premier Access. Please check local listings for details.
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