Emily Blunt, left, and Dwayne Johnson, right, are seen in a shot from Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” in theaters on Friday, July 30, 2021. (Walt Disney Studios, YouTube)
THE AMAZON — Remember all the times you went to Disneyland and how every time you were on the pun-filled Jungle Cruise you couldn’t help but think to yourself, “They really need to make a movie out of this ride.”
Oh, you didn’t do that? Well, neither did anyone else, except for some Disney executives.
“Jungle Cruise” is sailing into theaters and Disney+ with Premier Access this week. Despite my jokes and eye rolls at the fact that they made a movie out of that ride, I have to admit, it’s a pretty fun movie.
The film isn’t perfect and is an amalgamation of some other films you’ve already seen, but it makes for a lively trip down the Amazon in search of legends, myths and more than a few puns. Here are a few reasons “Jungle Cruise” is a fun movie worth a watch:
The cast is infectious
I don’t think this should come as a surprise to anyone, but “Jungle Cruise” includes a great cast that makes the movie much more enjoyable. Dwayne Johnson is charming and fun as always. The Rock isn’t the best actor working today, but he is one of the most charismatic, and it’s hard not to like him.
Joining Johnson is the incredibly talented Emily Blunt. Blunt seems to always be on point and we know she can pull off action movies thanks to her roles in “Edge of Tomorrow” and the “Quiet Place” franchise. She does more of the same here and she is anything but a damsel in distress, but rather a clever, strong and capable heroine.
Whitehall may not be a household name, but the British comedian has some upcoming films that will make him more recognizable to American audiences and his turn in “Jungle Cruise” will help. Whitehall adds some charm and character development to the story and is hard not to root for.
Plemons on the other hand is a scoundrel with impeccable manners and an unyielding drive to get what he wants. Plemons is one of the better character actors working today and can play everything from a creepy and lonely cop in “Game Night,” to a budding and terrifying hitman in “The Irishman,” to a flamboyant and despicable German villain in “Jungle Cruise.”
A good, old-fashioned adventure movie
“Jungle Cruise” leans on the visual effects and borrows heavily from some other movies, but overall I was OK with that because it made for some fun. “Jungle Cruise” made me think of three movie franchises in particular as I was watching.
The movie seems to be a mashup of “Indiana Jones,” “The Mummy” with Brenden Fraser and the “Pirates of Caribbean” franchises. While I don’t think the film is as good as the early Indiana movies, the first Mummy film or the first Pirates film, I do think it’s better than the last Jones adventure and all of the Mummy sequels. I have my issues with all of the Pirates sequels, too.
But there is something satisfying about a fun adventure movie filled with bad guys, heroes, comedic sidekicks, exotic locales, magical curses and a sense of treasure hunting. And “Jungle Cruise” has it all. The film gets campy and silly, but all great adventure films do and this is no different.
It’s punny, for better or worse
If any of you have ever ridden the Jungle Cruise ride you know it’s filled with puns — like, a lot of puns. Some favorite jokes include looking at the back side of water, something about toucans and how only two of them can do anything at one time, and pointing out some sandstone and telling the boat that most people take it for granite. Yeah, they’re terrible, but us dads appreciate it.
Regardless, this wasn’t forgotten about in all that’s going on with the “Jungle Cruise” movie. The film makes sure to find every opportunity to get a solid pun in from the Skipper (Johnson) whenever it can. No, they aren’t that funny, but I appreciated the fact the writers kept what makes the ride unique in the film. They also managed to get Trader Sam in the movie, as well — just keep your eyes open.
A few jokes don’t land
I’m not talking about jokes specifically here, but there were a few small things that I don’t think quite worked in “Jungle Cruise.”
My biggest complaint actually goes back to something I mentioned earlier about borrowing from other films. I don’t mind that the movie has some similarities to “Indiana Jones” or “The Mummy,” but there is one thing that seemed to be lifted straight from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. It’s as if they asked those filmmakers if they had some leftover stuff and if they could just use it.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but if you don’t get the overwhelming feeling that the bad guys in “Jungle Cruise” are wildly familiar to Davey Jones and his crew, then you either haven’t seen the second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies or that part of your memory has been wiped clean.
It didn’t ruin the movie for me, but it undoubtedly lacked originality, and that was a little disappointing.
What parents should know
“Jungle Cruise” is rated PG-13 and that is for violence and scary images. There is a lot of fighting and some characters are killed, but I don’t think it quite reaches the violence level of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.
When it comes to younger audiences I think the biggest worry would be that some of the younger kids may get scared. The bad guys can be scary along with some of the jungle animals that pop up.
I would say “Jungle Cruise” is worthy of a PG-13 rating, but it’s closer to the PG side.
Is it worth watching?
“Jungle Cruise” is far from a perfect film and won’t be winning any Academy Awards, at least not in the major categories.
But who cares? That’s not what this movie is all about. It’s about having fun and escaping the real world for a couple of hours and it succeeds. It will be a fun movie night for me and my family.
“Jungle Cruise” will hit theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on Friday. It is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence.