Movie Review: Jungle Cruise

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Summer is synonymous with blockbuster and the yearlong delayed “Jungle Cruise” has all the marks of a tentpole pre-COVID.  Disney also needs another non-superhero franchise hit and “Jungle Cruise” may just fit the bill.  

While much of the movie focuses on the river cruise and jungle adventures, the opening scenes in London where Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt, “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) gets her hand on the arrowhead found from an expedition, hiding-and-seeking and balancing herself on a ladder before making an auspicious escape, is entertaining.  It gives a glimpse of the intrepid botanist’s character and adventure to come.  

The arrowhead is the key to find the mystical Tears of the Moon.  Legend has it that the petals found in the Amazon jungle has magical healing powers that can cure all kinds of ailments.  With the treasure map and arrowhead on hand, Lily heads down to the Amazon, accompanied by her prim and proper brother, McGregor (Jack Whiteall).  Unlike her headstrong and adventurous sister, McGregor’s prissiness adds a refreshing touch to the gender dynamic.  

jungle cruise poster

In the golden-toned Amazon, Lily and McGregor are met by skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson, “Faster.”  He takes rich people on rickety-rackety river tours on his rickety boat and hustles for cash.  While it’s predictable how the initial clash between the Lily and Frank is turning into a trusting friendship and burgeoning romance, the stars have great chemistry and it makes the ride more enjoyable.  

“Jungle Cruise” is right up Johnson’s alley, but Blunt is surprisingly on point as an explorer and adventurer.  Nimble on her feet, she easily climbs up ladders, traipses on rooftops and tree branches, ziplines through power lines, and stands on her own while facing off nefarious opponents.  

Danger lurks at every turn; raging rapids, living jungle, menacing animals, supernatural beings, mysterious tribe, caricature-like, determined villain (Jesse Plemons) and his army hot on the trio’s trail.  The movie goes off on a wild tangent at one point with an entire other history and storyline, making it overstuffed, yet, it still remains a blast.  There’s a particular twist that you wouldn’t see coming.  And the ending may just launch a sequel.  

With fantasy action adventure elements of “Indiana Jones,” “The Mummy,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “National Treasure,”  there’s a lot to like.  The movie is in constant motion, like a giant roller coaster ride of Jungle Cruise, Grizzly River Run and WaterWorld show rolled into one.  “Jungle Cruise” is an entertaining escapist for the whole family.  

Copyright (c) 2021. Nathalia Aryani

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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