by Rob DiCristino
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about Jungle Cruise, which comes to theaters and Disney+ Premier Access today. It’s a vintage adventure yarn in the tradition of Pirates of the Caribbean and Raiders of the Lost Ark (the latter of which became a Disney property when the Mouse acquired Lucasfilm in 2012), with nods to classics like The African Queen. It stars Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, both familiar faces to Disney audiences. It’s based on the theme park attraction of the same name and threads in minor fanservice notes to that effect. It’s rated PG-13 in the U.S. for sequences of adventure violence and some mild suggestive content. Though its action is set on treacherous Amazon rapids, most of the film was shot against green screen on Atlanta sound stages, giving our heroes that familiar polished glow and allowing CGI animators to craft appropriately-imaginative environments for them to traverse. Each facet of Jungle Cruise feels carefully engineered to provide the perfect balance of cinematic fun.
In most respects, Jungle Cruise is exactly what it should be: A rip-roaring, swash-buckling romp chock-full of danger, excitement, and romance. Emily Blunt brings her best Kate Hepburn, imbuing her Lily with all the tenacity one would expect from a capable woman unwilling to live in a man’s world. Though her initially icy chemistry with Frank eventually thaws, she’s never forced to compromise her integrity, rarely batting her eyelashes or making self-destructive decisions in the name of love. Her relationship with McGreggor — though talked about in dialogue more directly than it is explicitly shown on screen — is nurturing and empathetic; she accepts her brother’s perceived shortcomings and shares with him a genuine sibling affection. Lily is an entirely functional character — which I actually mean with more praise than it might sound. She has goals, flaws, an arc, and Blunt seems to be having fun in the role. She’s exactly the kind of archetype that anchors a busy, four-quadrant film like Jungle Cruise.