By Laurie Coker
Following in the footsteps of successful franchises like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, Disney’s Jungle Cruise sails into theatres just before school starts, offering families a fun escape from the sweltering heat. Based on the popular Disney amusement park attraction, this CGI and action-packed adventure-comedy showers viewers with spectacle, special effects and witty one-liners. Director Jaume Collet-Serra spares nothing in splashy color, wild rides, and plot twists, but its stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt make the film a frolicking good time.
Johnson and Blunt star as Frank Wolff and Lily Houghton, a mismatched pair thrown together in search of a miracle tree – hidden somewhere deep in the Amazon – that has disease-healing and life-giving properties. “Jungle Cruise” takes us on a wild adventure that feels a great deal like a cross between “The African Queen” (for the older crowd) and “Pirates of the Caribbean”. I mention the Humphry Bogart/Katharine Hepburn classic because Johnson and Blunt have an equally fiery and pleasingly enchanting interaction. Their banter is fresh and funny and Johnson’s charm plays well with Blunt’s feistiness. Of note, too, is Jack Whitehall as McGregor Houghton, Lily’s brother. He is the perfect third-wheel and provides a great deal of witty amusement.
Borrowing liberally from the “Indiana Jones” franchise, the movie relies heavily on outrageous stunts and awesome action sequences that border on silly overkill but ultimately are skillfully executed and entirely entertaining. Audiences will love the brightly colored, stunning visuals, and while the humor will certainly please the younger set, parents and grandparents will chuckle too. It is important to point out that characters drink and there is gun and swordplay, as well as moments that some younger children might find scary.
Outlandishness and flaws aside, “Jungle Cruise” works. It touches on some heavy themes but does so with a light hand. It is likely we will see more of the cast in subsequent films, and that’s fine because even with its faults, “Jungle Cruise” provides an overall pleasurable experience. I am placing a B- in the grade book. Get ready to eyeroll (and laugh) at Frank’s barrage of ridiculous jokes and puns.