In theaters and streaming on Disney+ with Premier Access is Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. The film revives the studio’s series of films based on attractions, bringing one of the parks original rides to life with a lot of extra puns and adventure. While the ride-to-film projects have been more miss than hit, peaking with “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Jungle Cruise” is a hit. The film finds a sweet spot between comedy and adventure, and manages to evoke nostalgic feelings for the attraction while (mostly) avoiding its infamous and problematic pitfalls.
“Jungle Cruise” begins in London, with Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) pulling off a daring burglary after her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), fails to convince the historical society of an Amazonian legend. They travel to the Amazon and find the only riverboat captain willing to bring them on their quest is Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), who leads their adventure with a large cat, lots of puns and a few Conquistadors in pursuit.
First and foremost, this movie is really fun. Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall vibe well on screen, and can consistently keep up banter without it being forced or exhausting. Whitehall’s MacGregor has a host of great one-liners and is the surprise standout of the film. Emily Blunt is, as expected, charming and quick in a way that position more in the stereotypically masculine adventurer archetype. Dwayne Johnson makes the puns carried over from the attraction feel fresh, and adds a few new ones to the repertoire. Perhaps the most welcome part of the “Jungle Cruise” is its willingness to state the subtext, including a queer coded character actually being canonically gay and a tongue in cheek depiction of the “jungle savage” trope.
In press ahead of the film’s release, much has been made of Blunt’s Lily Houghton as the “female Indiana Jones,” but I think a better comparison is to “The Mummy.” “Jungle Cruise” has the same bones–a brother and sister enlist a roguish adventurer to lead them to a mythical place–and enough self-awareness to be kooky but not corny. Similarly, this movie also has some monster imagery that dances the line between creepy and downright gross that would be tough for younger children. And, likewise, “Jungle Cruise” doesn’t quite manage to banish the idea of glamorous colonialism, using a thin veil of medical advancement for all mankind to make the Houghton’s quest more noble than their German rivals.
Overall, “Jungle Cruise” is a great summer watch with a solid foundation that really shines with a compact, but perfectly cast ensemble. “Jungle Cruise” sails into theaters and onto Disney+ with Premier Access on July 29.