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Movie Review: Jungle Cruise

When Disney came out with Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean all those years ago, I was so surprised at how good it was. It had pirates, action and adventure, a love story, and an anti-hero that we could all root for. I give full credit to Verbinski for how well it turned out. Disney could have built on this type of movie because the Pirates of the Caribbean‘s and Swiss Family Robinson‘s of the Disney machine are decent movies. Classics.

Jungle Cruise does not soar to those heights. It is well cast and pretty to look at, but at the end of the day, that’s about all it is.

Frank (Dwayne Johnson) is a boat captain for a tour company on a river in the Amazon. Lily and Jack are a sibling duo on the search for a flower that has healing powers. Lily hires Frank, who is dishonest and deadpans a lot of jokes, to take her to the flower. They are being chased by a submarine captained by a guy named Joachim (Jesse Plemons).

They encounter pink dolphins, jungle tribes, and just about every other cliche you can imagine from a film simply entitled Jungle Cruise. And, they even borrowed from Pirates of the Caribbean and had cursed three hundred year old bad guys who can’t die. Emily Blunt’s character reminds me of Rachel Weisz’s character in The Mummy films. A quick thinking, self aware woman stuck in a man’s world. A trope I usually enjoy, but in this, it feels borrowed from other films. That says nothing on Emily Blunt who breathes life into a character that would have been flat without her.

This film could have been so much more. Dwayne Johnson is capable of more than deadpanning puns and some action sequences. The script didn’t allow him more than that. If Disney had brought something original to the table instead of giving us a derivative film set in the jungle instead of the Caribbean, perhaps I would have enjoyed it more.

That said, I laughed occasionally while watching it. The film certainly took my mind off of real life for a couple hours, and at the end of the day, isn’t that why we watch movies? It’s certainly watchable, but don’t expect anything new from this one. It’s a whole lot of every Disney cliche there is all in one place fronted by two great actors who can do so much better.

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