• Release Date: 30/07/2021
  • Platform: Disney + Hotstar
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Edgar Ramírez, Jesse Plemons  
  • Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

I have never been to Disney World but this makes it the second Disney World ride that has been made into a film and one that has appealed to the kid in me. Yes! Jungle Cruise derives its idea from the famous Disney World ride and puts its viewers in Victorian London where we meet Lily (Emily Blunt). Lily is hot on the heels of a fabled flower known as “Tears of the Moon” that has remarkable healing abilities. She approaches a Victorian organization for access to a certain resource that would allow her to continue with her chase of the elusive flower. As was customary in those days, she is emphatically denied access. She uses her brother to try one more time to get access to the resource but is denied again. Following this, she takes matters into her own hands.

 Lily steals the resource that happens to be an arrowhead and with the help of her brother and her sharp intellect and physical agility, she makes her way out of London and lands up in the dense forest of the Nile. Here she needs a boat and a skipper who could take her to the coordinates mentioned in her ancient map. She meets the smart-talking and hardly dependable boat captain Frank (Dwayne Johnson) who she quickly despises. However, situations turn out in such a way that she is forced to take Frank’s help and the trio set up on a wild adventure to unearth the location of the fabled “Tears of the Moon”. In their pursuit is a ruthless and resourceful German aristocrat who wants the flower for himself. As they dwell deeper and deeper into the Jungle, they come face to face with an enemy that has been lying dormant for over 300 years. This enemy is sprung into action following the chain of events triggered by Lily and her pursuit of the magical flowers. What happens next is what Jungle Cruise is all about.

Films like this follow a set formula and one has to accept it for what it is to enjoy it. I have always had a good time with films of this type and Jungle Cruise was no different. The mystery about the flower was built up well and had enough meat to justify the 2-hour runtime of the film. There were enough twists and turns along the way to ensure that the audiences remained interested and intrigued by the narrative. While the story does take some time to get off the blocks, once it does so, it moves on like a well-oiled machine. The story is characterized by comedy and thrills and both these aspects of it worked well for me. The comedy is mostly derivative of Dwayne Johnson’s oddball mannerisms and a terrible sense of comedy. While the other characters constantly keep pointing out his poor sense of comedy, it becomes a source of laughs for the audience. Also, the fact that he constantly keeps lying and then getting caught makes for some more funny moments.

The film doesn’t have too many serious action sequences. None of the characters are ever at any serious risk and when they are, we are quickly informed that they are safe. Thus there is very little drama and tension in these action sequences. Having said that, the action is still very well executed and will instantly strike a chord with the audience. The first action sequence involves Frank getting out of the harbor after a prolonged and innovative fire exchange with the German prince. He is shown running a submarine in the Nile and is viciously attacking Frank’s dilapidating boat with high-caliber machine gun rounds. The next major action sequence occurs when Frank and Lily are brutally attacked by an adversary that had been lying dormant for 300 years. This sequence was well choreographed and did instill some fear for the safety of the primary characters. The climactic action sequence of the film was well done and left little room for dissatisfaction.

My only qualms with the action sequences were about the lackluster CGI and VFX. We have come to expect the very best from Hollywood and Disney studios when it comes to artificial imagery and those standards went for a toss here on more than one occasion. Be it the digital rendering of a cat or the design and execution of the humans who have been inundated by the forces of nature for decades and turned into entities that embody various aspects of nature, the CGI looked cardboard-ish and dull. A better version of similar characters was seen earlier in Davy Jones’ crew of The Pirates of the Caribbean films. Since I had some precedence to compare the current work with, it felt even more mediocre.

However, what the film lacks in technicalities and seriousness, and thrills, it more than makes up for with its performances. Dwayne Johnson is one of the costliest Hollywood actors of recent times and he makes it abundantly clear with his performance why he enjoys that pedestal. The man could just stand and deliver lines and would still be just as likable and investing as he is here. He uses his physicality sparingly and when he does he makes the most of it. He is able to show a range of expressions that contribute to the character at different times and makes it more fun to watch. His camaraderie with Emily Blunt and the chemistry between the two was infectious and quickly rubbed on to me.

Blunt is a bankable star and in the company of Dwayne Johnson, she does a phenomenal job. She brings in the kind of mojo to her character that would justify the way of life Lily was following and the daring attitude towards everything that she embodied. She was as good in the comedic bits as she was in the sequences that were a little dramatic, sentimental and borderline romantic. A lot of credit for their phenomenal performances must also be given to the quirky and smart dialog that was written for the character. The dialog not only made their exchanges and fights fun to watch but also gave them the necessary ammo to extract laughs.

John Whitehall as Lily’s brother is a laugh riot. He too gains heavily from the smart and funny dialogues that were written for his character. He plays a character that is totally out of its league in the circumstances that he is thrust into. His many predicaments become a source of constant comedy. While his oddball charm is infectious, the character does undergo a minor arch throughout the film and turns into a formidable force by the end of it all. Jesse Plemons is the perfect match for the German aristocrat.

Jungle Cruise is a typical Disney adventure film that requires constant suspension of disbelief. It has more plot holes than a tea strainer and doesn’t take anything seriously. Even after that, it strangely remains an immersive and endearing watch. Maybe it is because it appeals to the child in all of us and reminds us of the Ludacris fairytales that we all listened to growing up. I might have enjoyed it a little more because I watched it right after I suffered through F9: The Fast Saga. That film was such a train wreck that it might have elevated Jungle Cruise’s impact a couple of notches.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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