Jungle Cruise Review
Nearly twenty years ago, in 2003, Disney struck unexpectedly struck gold with Pirates of the Caribbean, an action-adventure film based on one of Disneyland's first rides. When the project was first announced, many scoffed at the idea that a successful movie (let alone a franchise), could originate from an amusement park ride. But with a standout performance by Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, a bombastic score and an overall swashbuckling adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean was an enormous hit. The live-action department of Disney has been chasing that gold standard ever since attempting to recreate the formula with duds like The Haunted Mansion and Tomorrowland. It seemed that Disney seemed to give up hope on the idea that there could be another Pirates of the Caribbean type ride turned movie, but they decided to give it one more try with Jungle Cruise.
Jungle Cruise teams two of the most likable people in Hollywood, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for an adventure with quite a few similarities to Pirates of the Caribbean. Actually, it shares some similarities to some other beloved adventure series as well--namely Indiana Jones and The Mummy. Blunt stars as Lily, a botanist who, along with her brother (Jack Whitehall) heads to South America in hopes of discovering a legendary flower along the Amazon River that can cure the body of any sickness. Once there, she enlists the help of a cocky riverboat captain named Frank Wolff. Problem is, she stole the map from German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons as the mustache-twirling Nazi villain) who is in constant pursuit to get it back and retrieve the flower for his own evil purposes.
Even while being somewhat derivative of some much better movies, I found myself enjoying Jungle Cruise...until I didn't. The biggest problem here is that the movie is 2 hours and 7 minutes long and it has absolutely no reason to be. The pacing of this just drags the movie to a halt and it just can't overcome its bloatedness. The other things that didn't work for me were a silly reveal about Dwayne Johnson's character that ultimately feels pretty pointless and just the overall feeling that as likable as both leads are I really didn't buy any romance between them (which itself felt tacked on in the last act).
Jungle Cruise is just a bit of unoriginal fun until it turns more into a slog. Had a few sequences been trimmed down, or perhaps others eliminated entirely, this would have felt so much breezier and ended up with more of a bang than a fizzle. No matter what its charismatic leads do, they can't turn this into Pirate's gold.