As a huge fan of Disney Parks and a former Cast Member at The Magic Kingdom, you can imagine how much I anticipated the release of Jungle Cruise. I use the word “anticipated” not to indicate high expectations or overall excitement, but more so a bit of cautious optimism. I hoped this would be a great movie, but I didn’t have extremely high hopes. Disney has attempted movies based on rides before, but all but one seemed to fall on its face in the box office. Remember Country Bears, Eddie Murphy’s Haunted Mansion, and George Clooney’s Tomorrowland? If your answer is no, I can’t say I’m surprised. Other than Pirates of the Caribbean, no movie based on a Disney park ride has managed to recapture the magic. So were Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt able to crack the code and bring a spark to a mildly lackluster year of Disney movies?
National Treasure 3: Welcome to the Jungle of the Temple of Doom
If we are being honest, cheesy puns are the reason the Jungle Cruise ride has been such a favorite for many years. How do you bring that into an action-adventure that is meant to be a summer blockbuster? I am pleased to say that Disney’s Jungle Cruise utilizes many of the same puns and inside jokes that make up the DNA of the ride….all in the first 5 minutes. The rest of the movie seems like a combination of National Treasure, Jumanji, and Indiana Jones.
One thing I want to mention straight-off is that this is not a kid-friendly film. There is a lot of action, intensity, and mildly disturbing imagery that is likely not suitable for your 8-year-old. There is also a lot of silly comedy that landed more times than not in my opinion. I enjoyed the performances of our lead trio of characters. They were all dynamic, funny, and authentic in a way that brought life to the film. The script, however, was not as convincing. On a couple of instances, it felt like the writers wrote themselves into a story dilemma and used some pretty outlandish expositional dump in an attempt to reel it back in. All-in-all, the story is pretty formulaic and not all that interesting. There are two different villain characters when I think the film would’ve been more coherent with just one. Supernatural curses (just like in the original Pirates film) add some mystical mumbo jumbo to an otherwise down-to-earth adventure film. The plot just doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun with it.
The film looks pretty good, especially in the early parts of the film. Much of the early scenes were shot on location in different parts of Hawaii with sets that were beautifully constructed. Later on, the movie utilized a lot more green and blue screen backgrounds that weren’t nearly as captivating as the Hawaiian jungles of the earlier backdrops.
Cutting right to the chase, if Disney chose to make another Jungle Cruise film I would definitely watch it. This movie was funny, entertaining, and had great performances from the leads. However, I think they should hire some new writers and search for a new identity in terms of story if they want to capture the hearts (and wallets) of Disney faithful as well as the general public.