Jungle Cruise (2021) REVIEW: Slightly Smooth Sailing Ahead

Disney interrupts their pattern found in recent releases of Cruella (2021) and Mulan (2020) that recycles old classics into new live-action by following the route that was once pioneered by Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2017). Another Disney Parks attraction has been given a backstory through cinematic events by the studio itself.

Jungle Cruise (2021) dives head-first into its Disney-fied crossover of The Mummy (1999), Indiana Jones (1981-2022), and Pirates of the Caribbean. An ardent adventure picks up with upbeat and liveliness while leaving its plot behind along the way. Emily Blunt is the witty, stubborn, and good-of-heart adventurer that shares the traits of Rachel Weisz's all-too-similar confident English treasure hunter. She takes to the initially unadmitted liking of a breezily charming skipper (Dwyane Johnson) while they seek out the Tears of the Moon - blossoms from a tree that defeats the purpose of James Cameron promising that his handful of Avatar (2009-2028) movies are still on their way.

Lily Houghton (Blunt) and her brother MacGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) push back against stereotypes that they happen to remain in line with at the same time. Houghton's defying of gender norms by wearing pants, rarely seen in the early 20th century, earning the nickname of "Pants" that's cute once, but sparks unoriginality upon its repetition. Blunt's airbrushed makeup and seemingly perfect hair show that women can be voyagers, too, as long as they remain put together. Her on-screen brother checks off the boxes of common gay stereotypes; fussy attitude, effeminate in dress, and a carefully worded "coming out" that can be sidestepped by the studio as they congratulate themselves on LGBTQIA+ representation. If Disney can make the efforts to remove the racism from the Jungle Cruise ride, they can easily put that same energy into no longer minimalizing LGBTQIA+ characters.

Its spirited head start lets that burst of energy take charge as the sprawl of a CGI South American jungle becomes more and more daunting as the trio of travelers treks on. The studio is gentle with their PG-13 rating on this film in particular, sure to delight young moviegoers and Disney Park diehards with a sprightly tribute to one of the theme parks' oldest and most popular water rides. The studio knows their audience and they know them well. It's a given that the Mouse House will delight their zealots with a light, fun dose of Disney that reaches that sought-after happy ending. Cringe-worthy at times, Jungle Cruise is exactly what it makes itself out to be: a big-name summer blockbuster.

There is the incorporation of elements from the ride that partake in the film, but the overall story is thrown to the mercy of balancing multiple plots atop one another. Ancient myths, native people, immortal spirits, and a relic-chasing German prince (Jesse Plemons) butt heads across overlapping conflicts. Blunt and Johnson are a duo that is hoped to be seen together again, though it can be noted that Blunt's summer is stuck between a Rock and A Quiet Place.


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