THEATRICAL REVIEW: Jungle Cruise is a family-friendly scenic ride

Disney’s new live-action adventure, Jungle Cruise, is based on a theme park ride, and sometimes the script is so flimsy the film feels like it.

Jungle Cruise is a ton of fantastic, bombastic and beautiful style, but one wonders what might have happened if there was a bit more substance.

For instance, Pirates Of The Caribbean was mocked and derided for its Disneyland origins before it become a worldwide hit, and nabbed Johnny Depp an Oscar nomination. But Jungle Cruise, sadly, never reaches the heights it rightly could have.

It follows a rich woman seeking a supernatural item with her brother, and the riverboat captain who brings them through the jungle. The movie has wonderful action sequences, beautiful animals and landscapes, but just doesn’t have the story it needs to reach classic Disney heights.

The interplay and fun little banter is enjoyable, and the actors are absolutely committed to their roles, for better or worse.

Dwayne Johnson is fantastic as captain and scam artist Frank Wolff, though his sexist jokes at the expense of beautiful traveler Lily soon wear out their welcome.

Emily Blunt is flawless as Lily Houghton, and a bright spot in the proceedings. Jack Whitehall – one of my favourite British talents – shines here as high-maintenance MacGregor, brother to Lily. The character is actually given a story that one wouldn’t expect from Disney, and I was happy to see him fleshed out.

Jesse Plemmons adopts a German accent as villainous Prince Joachim, in pursuit of Lily and MacGregor. He’s a wonderful actor and fully commits, but feels slightly out of place. Finally, Paul Giamatti and Edgar Ramirez are two unparalleled talents wasted here, with minimal screen-time and almost no development.

I rarely wish a two-hour film was longer, but I do wonder what director Jaume Collet-Sierra could have done with an extra 20 minutes. Given his action pedigree, having done Liam Neeson films Unknown and Non-Stop, as well as fantastic shark film The Shallows, it’s no surprise the more grandiose scenes are perfect.

But with seven writers involved here, one wonders why the story itself falls a little bit flat.

There is wonderful chemistry between the characters, and the charm of Johnson and Blunt takes this one down the river pretty seamlessly, but if you’re looking for any more than a routine trip, you may have to wait for a (hopefully) improved sequel.

3/5 Stars

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