There’s been a real dearth of good old adventure movies in the last few years. I’m talking about movies that take you on a colorful, dramatic adventure. Classic stories like Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jumanji, and the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies directly emulate the vibe of the old style adventures of the thirties through the fifties. They all were grounded, yet fantastical films that stand alone, even if in a series. When Disney announced that they were finally making a movie on the classic Disneyland ride Jungle Cruise, I was excited. Even more so when they announced the cast. With Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson in the lead roles, I was more than ready for an adventure film to fit alongside those classics. What I should have done is temper my expectations. What I expected was another Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. What I got felt more in line with the Haunted Mansion.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love with the Jungle Cruise. Dwayne Johnson is absolutely hysterical in the role, and Emily Blunt’s chemistry with him is downright adorable. You can see how much fun they’re having. Jack Whitehall fits in excellently alongside that dynamic duo, and if anything his presence improves the film. In terms of plotting, all the best ingredients are there. A legend about a mysterious source of eternal life? Check. An attached legend about cursed conquistadors searching for this magic? Double check. Great acting from a likable cast? Triple check. An exotic location on the other side of the world? Quadruple check! So what went wrong?
If the movie was just them, the mystery, and the quest, it would have been so much better. Instead, we have a discount Indiana Jones German villain, a curse ripped seemingly from PotC lore that is badly defined and in dire need of expansion, a tragic underuse of character actors, and a lack of real sets causes to the movie to suffer from a total lack of Identity. There’s a bit of a forced romance between Johnson and Blunt as well – they acted more like bros and there’s little romantic tension. The script really needed another pass, and they needed more shooting on location. The Amazon setting felt really fake, and for a story this fantastical, we needed a bit of that grounding those classic movies did.
Is the movie a total misfire? No. There’s a lot here that’s great. The movie was still a really fun time, and many of the callbacks to the ride felt genuine and for the fans. However, all of the problems the film has really drags it down. Despite the fact that it was not a waste of time, its still a frustrating film because it could have been so much better and you can see it. Whatever, though. Better luck next time big D.