Jungle Cruise (12A)
Jungle Cruise (12A)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Runtime: 127 minutes
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Veronica Falcón
Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE is an adventure-filled Amazon-jungle expedition.
Dr. Lily Houghton enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff to take her down the Amazon in his ramshackle boat. Together, they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal – a discovery that will change the future of medicine.
Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra’s [The Shallows (2016), Unknown (2011), Orphan (2009)] big-screen adventure brings the much loved, enduring Disneyland theme park ride which has entertained crowds since 1955 – to cinema audiences.
In this lively, fun spectacle, Amazon explorers encounter threats both human and supernatural. On the receiving end are Dwayne Johnson as wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and Emily Blunt as intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton.
Lily travels from London, with her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila – his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities – possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate – and mankind’s – hangs in the balance.
During the 10-minute pre-title sequence it is explained that a single petal from a great tree deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle — known as the Tears of the Moon — can cure any illness or break any curse. Countless explorers over the centuries have attempted to find it and harness its powers, including Spanish conquistadors led by Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez), who betrayed the indigenous guardians of the tree who rescued his expedition’s men from the jungle’s menace. With his dying breath, the native chief cursed them to remain eternally within sight of the river, unable to leave or die.
In London in 1916, two years into World War I, Lily Houghton is dressed like a female Indiana Jones in full safari gear. She infiltrates the chambers of a science society to steal a recently recovered arrowhead believed to be the key to finding the Tears of the Moon. As a decoy, her brother MacGregor presents her theories about the unparalleled healing powers of the mysterious tree, which could revolutionize modern medicine and greatly aid the war effort.
While the stuffy boys’ club membership is rejecting their request for support, Lily is behind the scenes involved in a scuffle with the reprehensible Prince Joachim of Germany (Jesse Plemons) for possession of the arrowhead, which culminates with her dangling over Piccadilly Circus on a precariously suspended ladder.
In Brazil, Frank Wolff, is running what he calls the best and cheapest river cruise on the Amazon on his beat-up boat. He’s an affable rascal, in cahoots with crafty female tribal chief Trader Sam (Veronica Falcón) to give the tourists an alarming thrill as part of a ride that includes rigged animal appearances.
A commercial rival, Nilo Nemolato (Paul Giamatti) plus a cockatoo to whom Frank owes money.
Lily is soon scammed into engaging Frank’s services, and they set off upriver on a type of boisterous send up of Heart of Darkness. MacGregor, a prissy, stereotypical Englishman, has packed with a surfeit of trunks of toiletries and apparel for every occasion, most of which Frank tosses overboard. Meanwhile, Lily’s radical-for-the-era choice of pants is repeatedly emphasized to establish her feminist credentials.
Frank repeatedly exaggerates the dangers ahead — and fabricates some scares — to encourage Lily to turn back. Animatronic animals spring out of the artificial undergrowth, CGI abounds. But the feisty explorer remains determined, even when they face treacherous rapids. As they search for the sacred tree, Prince Joachim does everything possible to blow them out of the water, first with weaponry and then by setting loose the reanimated conquistadors. The otherwise fearless Lily can’t swim so it is unsurprising when she is forced to complete a daring underwater manoeuvre.
The chemistry is good between Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt who demonstrates her adroit comedy skills. Cinematography from Flavio Labiano has vibrancy and lots of swooping camerawork in the action scenes.
Pleasant, diverting family entertainment – though children are probably the target demographic, anyone older is likely to spend a lot of time being reminded of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone ,The African Queen with a surreal tangent of Aguirre, Wrath of God.
In Cinemas and streaming on Disney +
Images courtesy of Walt Disney UK