There is almost nothing I look forward to more when I’m in Disney World than hopping aboard one of the beloved Jungle Cruise boats. For ten minutes you escape into a new adventure, with a wise-cracking skipper to navigate your passage through the winding river. From my very first Disney trip all the way into adulthood, the Jungle Cruise ride has always held a special place in my mouse-shaped heart. I had very high expectations when I heard Disney was developing a film based on my favorite ride. When one looks to the success and quality of the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, you know Disney can get it right. Thankfully, Jungle Cruise starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson delivered.
True to the nature of its source material, director Jaume Collet-Serra’s film retains the humor found in the ride, while introducing new lore and history that will be appreciated by Disney lovers young and old. Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall play siblings who require the navigational skills of a boat skipper portrayed by Dwayne Johnson. Blunt, last seen on Disney screens as Mary Poppins, is Lily Houghton; a determined, revolutionary woman. Blunt is effortlessly cool as she channels Indiana Jones, and volleys hilarious quips back and forth with Johnson. These two embody the spirit of Bogart and Hepburn in the African Queen, a film Jungle Cruise gently tips its hat to. Johnson, as the fearless skipper Frank Wolff, is charming and full of surprises. Jack Whitehall as MacGregor Houghton, makes good use of his “posh boy” stand-up routine, but don’t expect this portrayal to be one-note. Whitehall infuses warmth and depth to the persona he’s cultivated over the years to delight viewers. Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Edgar Ramírez, and Veronica Falcón round out this marvelous cast with wonderful performances of their own.
Something mysterious is hidden deep in the whiles of the amazon, and this trio is determined to find it. If I say anymore, it will ruin the pun-filled ride, just know the plot twists and turns are worth the adventure. Jungle Cruise is reminiscent of films like Romancing the Stone and The Mummy, with well-executed action scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny. Cinematography by Flavio Martínez Labiano is sweeping and grand, while a score from James Newton Howard perfectly complements the action.
There is no shortage of trials when traversing the Amazon, and Skipper Frank has a dad-joke prepared to meet them all. Johnson and Blunt are a dynamic duo, making this 2 hour and 36-minute run time feel like no work at all. Jungle Cruise will sail in to theaters and Disney+ Premier Access Friday July 30th. For those who think they should skip this one, well, you’re in De-Nile!