Jungle Cruise (2021) – Jaume Collet-Serra

Disney’s latest film, is definitely an E-ticket ride to joy! Owing as much to the 1999 update of The Mummy and 1951’s The African Queen as it does the adventure serials of yesteryear, not to mention the ride that preceded it to the theatre, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise is a capital ‘S’ Summer movie.

I can remember being put off at first when I heard that Disney was adapting their ride of Pirates to a film. I was among the countless who rolled my eyes. And then after I saw it, I dragged a number of people I knew to the theatre to check it out (I remember my first screening of it when my friends and I thought we were going to mock it mercilessly and then had a fantastic time).

I should have remembered that when I first heard about this one. But then I wouldn’t have been as delighted by it as I was. Jungle Cruise is all about having fun at the movies, and it is imbued in every frame of the film, and embodied in the leading cast of Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson who seemto be having the time of their lives.

Set in 1916, the story follows the brillianr and head-strong (and she has to be in a male dominated academic field) Lily Houghton (Blunt) in her quest to plumb the depths of the Amazon for a legendary tree and its petals, which could help revolutionise modern medicine.

With ‘liberated’ artifacts to help her on her quest, she heads to South America with her proper, and out of his element brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) and engage the services of the pun-driven Frank Wolff (Johnson) who runs a jungle cruise up the Amazon.

The film has countless nods to the park’s original ride, and winks knowingly at its audience during those moments. In fact, it could have gotten bundled up in these moments, but instead there’s a fun narrative that seems to be lifted from a serial that reminds us of how much fun a well made adventure movie can be. Lily herself comments on the power of film, saying it can take us to different places and worlds, and Jungle Cruise does that.

Wonderfully escapist, and incredibly family-friendly; there’s a few jumps and thrills that may be too much for younger viewers, but this is a film that everyone in the family will walk away with something to enjoy and like about it. The villians of the piece never emanate any real danger, as that would violate the concept of the ride that the movie is. You know everything is going to turn out right in the end, it’s just fun seeing how it plays out.

James Newton Howard delivers a raucous score, interweaving themes and motifs as our characters confront the supernatural, as well as the dastardly Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), a German who has his own plans for the tree, and its uses during the now waging Great War.

It’s easy to be jaded about a film that just wants to deliver a good time, and while it seems a little top-heavy with CGI on occasion, that doesn’t detract from the sense of fun that permeates it, and honestly, who can keep a straight face with Johnson’s Frank delivering the puns he does?

Not all film has to deliver deeper meaning, this is not an indepth examination of the transience of the human soul, or a spin on French new wave cinema, this is a summer confection, a happy escape, it’s an afternoon in the park with friends, and so many of us need that right now.

Both Johnson and Blunt are so damned likeable, and pairing them up was just a brilliant idea, and the pair deliver a fun summer film. For those of us who can’t take the revamped ride at Disney, this is more entertaining, and a helluva lot of fun!

Kick back, turn off, enjoy.

Oh, and as a complete aside, how about that gorgeous, Drew Struzn-esque old school painted poster? That is how you do a movie poster, love it!

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