Jungle Cruise is the type of feel-good summer action flick I lived for when I was growing up. It’s reminiscent of swashbuckling action-adventures movies like The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean, with a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in just for the fun of it.
Jungle Cruise stars Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall as Lily and MacGregor Houghton. It’s the year 1916 and the two siblings are hunting for the Tears of the Moon, an ancient Amazonian tree possessing petals with magical healing abilities.
When the story begins, they’re social pariahs. Lily, the scrappier of the two, is a tough-as-nails researcher willing to do whatever it takes to get what she wants. MacGregor is the buttoned-up opposite of his feisty sister. He’ll take champagne, caviar, and three-piece suits over getting dirty out in the real world. But MacGregor’s fierce love for his sister means he can’t say no to her, so Lily keeps dragging him into wild adventures.
Lily hires shifty river guide Frank Wolff (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to help them track down the Tears of the Moon. Frank makes a living off hustling tourists on “dangerous” riverboat cruises. Frank cares more about swindling Lily than completing her mission. But with the nefarious German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) hot on their heels, Frank and his rickety boat, the La Quila, are Lily’s best option. In the blink of an eye, Lily, MacGregor, and Frank head down the Amazon in a race to find the Tears of the Moon before it falls into the wrong hands.
Jungle Cruise is light-hearted fun that the whole family can enjoy. It’s full of exciting set-pieces, over-the-top performances, and supernatural thrills. But it’s never as violent or as scary as old-school adventure movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and even The Goonies. Instead, Jungle Cruise is a sanitized throwback to adventure flicks from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
That’s not to say director Jaume Collet-Serra made a kids’ film. There are two reasons why moviegoers of any age will have a blast watching this movie. The cast is so damn likeable, and there’s an action sequence every 10 minutes.
There isn’t really an action break every ten minutes – but it sure feels like there is. These action-beats don’t feel shoe-horned into the story either. They seamlessly fit within the flow of the plot. Cinematographer Flavio Martínez Labiano is the unsung star of the show, capturing Jungle Cruise’s madcap action with an old-school elegance.
This film doesn’t offer the usual over-edited and hard-to-follow action you see in most big-budget movies today. In one scene early on, Lily fights through a life-and-death encounter with the style, grace, and otherworldly dexterity of a Fred Astaire dance number. It’s a sight to behold. These action sequences have less in common with Marvel movies than the daring work of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
If you don’t know the difference between an actor and a movie star, Blunt’s performance here spells it out for you. Lily is the ultimate badass. She’s capable of matching wits with any condescending man, but the beauty of the character is that she’s just as likely to punch that schmuck in the face (if the moment calls for it). Lily is Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood rolled into one; a lady who constantly finds herself in hairy situations but doesn’t need a man to rescue her.
But if there was ever someone a lady would want to do some rescuing, it would be the smouldering Amazonian river-hunk Frank Wolff.
Hollywood couldn’t dream up a role better-suited to The Rock’s talents. Let’s be real; no one will ever mistake his acting skills with Sir Laurence Olivier. Hell, I don’t know if I would rank his acting chops above Martin Lawrence. But he does have an ungodly amount of charisma. He puts every last iota of charm to use as Frank, a showman, a hustler, and a walking dad-joke factory. When paired with Blunt, the duo’s chemistry blasts off the screen with the force of a supernova. Watching these two stars do their thing is more than worth the price of admission.
Over the years we’ve seen countless family-friendly adventure movies like Jungle Cruise, and Collet-Serra doesn’t bother trying to reinvent the wheel. Jungle Cruise doesn’t elevate itself above any of the films that preceded it, but you won’t even care. Spending time with the La Quila’s crew is so much fun you’ll be happy just to go along for the ride.