Review: Jungle Cruise – It gets worse here every day …

Jungle Cruise film review

Rating: 3 out of 10.

There are a lot of terrible ways to die in the jungle. You can be eaten alive by piranhas. You can be chomped and stomped to death by a rampaging hippopotamus. You can be crushed and eaten by a giant anaconda snake. You can be attacked by a swarm of tsetse flies and… (Oh, wait… that’s the Atari Raiders of the Lost Ark video game… I’m dating myself.)

Jungle Cruise film poster
The poster is nice!

The point here is that none of the aforementioned fates could ever be as painful as sitting through Disney’s new Jungle Cruise film, a movie based on an outdated theme-park ride and that is as sluggish as a 1950’s era animatronic elephant and as nonsensical as a Disneyland line.

Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) is a wannabe “Indiana Jones” styled pseudo-scientist (something or other) who steals an ancient arrowhead called the “Tears of the Moon,” an artifact needed to activate a special tree in the middle of the Amazon jungle that will in turn produce life-saving blossoms she wants to share with mankind.

Dwayne Johnson plays the ne’er-do-well, pun-throwing Skipper of the decrepit riverboat Lily hires to take her up the river. Set during the first World War, complete with a German submarine, the story is sort of the African Queen meets the Indiana Jones franchise meets the Pirates of the Caribbean, but with less entertainment value.

Jack Whitehall is also onboard as MacGregor Houghton, Lily’s effeminate spouse who has a stomach-turning “coming out” scene with the Skipper that is completely out of place and utterly ill-conceived in this otherwise light-hearted adventure flick. I can’t really say what Whitehall’s purpose was in this film other than to be the stereotypical gay guy, and in an insulting manner at that.

Most of this movie is eye-rollingly bad, like an extended Spanish-speaking sequence with no sub-titles; Paul Giamatti with a grating (I think Italian) accent, completely miscast as an obnoxious Amazon dock-owner; Jesse Plemons with an even worse accent as a German prince and submarine captain. Giamatti and Plemons are both excellent actors, but their performances here are loathsome.

This film is made mostly for small children (I think), but if it had been written by children it probably would have been more imaginative than what we have here. And the gratuitous, loud and cartoonish violence in this film will probably frighten most small kids.

On the plus side, when the actual cruise first begins, it’s fun to see Johnson playing the role of the witty tour guide and I would have preferred the narrative to continue in that vein. Maybe have an actual boat of tourists go through a wormhole and come out on the real Amazon river – or something – anything but the flotsam that is this film.

Watching Jungle Cruise I couldn’t help but wonder, if “The Rock” is going to do a pulp inspired period adventure movie, why not go forward with Doc Savage (in the works for years now)? What’s up with that? Just sayin’, Dwayne!

With COVID-19 and all, this movie has been in the can for a couple of years now, and maybe it should have stayed there forever, never to be found, like buried treasure (minus the treasure part.) The film is more disappointing than the ride itself. Better to go enjoy a drink at the Adventureland bar and sit this ride out.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.