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Disney // PG-13 // July 30, 2021
List Price: Unknown
Outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Star Wars, Disney is no stranger to franchise properties. With various interests outside of the movie industry, the massive media company has access to a large assortment of properties. Disneyland and Disney World are very well-known theme parks with some highly beloved attractions that many folks associate with their childhood. Pirates of the Caribbean has proven to be hugely successful in its status as a ride as well as the film franchise. It makes sense that Disney would be interested in giving a similar treatment to other theme park attractions.
Based on the 1955 theme park attraction by the same name, Jungle Cruise takes place at beginning of the 20th century. British scientist Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) seek to go on a mission into the jungle to find the Tree of Life. Their path crosses that of a riverboat captain named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), who agrees to be their ride in exchange for a hefty sum of money. Lily is willing to do anything it takes to reach the Tree of Life in order to advance modern medicine. However, they aren't the only ones with the goal of chasing the myth, as they must get there before Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons).
While Jungle Cruise finds Johnson back in a family adventure taking place in the jungle, this isn't Jumanji. While that film often seeks to capture aspects of an old video game, this one expands upon the amusement ride to incorporate more of a story. It seeks to balance action, adventure, comedy, and a touch of romance. For those who have been on the ride, you know that there are an abundance of puns made by the captain; the film packs them on fairly heavy. The screenplay is quite self-aware, as characters even comment on some of the cringe-worthy puns throughout the film. However, the comedy is carried on the backs of Johnson and Blunt, who maintain a strong sense of chemistry from start to finish. They bounce energy off one another very effectively in a way that makes the film much more engaging.
When it comes to some of the other characters, Prince Joachim is one of the less thrilling threats. While Plemons does what he can with the character, the elements of nature and other obstacles the characters face are much more threatening. Disney is bringing an ounce of representation to Jungle Cruise with the character of MacGregor being gay. However, when the character discusses his sexuality in a specific scene, he only strongly alludes to it. It's implied and will likely only be picked up on by adults. This is yet another case of performative representation that isn't very meaningful, as the film is afraid to even directly say the word gay. There's a sweet bit of conversation about how his sister stood by him and loved him, regardless of who he loved. While the film isn't set in modern times, it's certainly a nod to diversity, although even in what's meant to be a tender moment, "gay" is treated as a dirty word.
Disney's newest family adventure will likely be the type of escapism that many will enjoy. The theme park attraction will also surely see a boost in popularity following the film, which could lead to more theme park attraction based rides in the future. When are we getting a Mr. Toad's Wild Ride feature film adaptation? While this movie certainly has some similarities to Indiana Jones, it feels a bit more similar to 1999's The Mummy. However, it never reaches the level of adventure that either of those films provide. Johnson and Blunt have undeniable chemistry that truly makes the film what it is. The movie doesn't introduce anything we haven't seen before, but it's entertaining enough. Jungle Cruise is passable light-hearted family entertainment.