Jungle Cruise Review

Should Jack Whitehall ever board a boat through the jungles of some distant, mysterious land, the rest of the crew should worry. It is the old wife’s tale that Pirates of the Caribbean lit up. Annoying comedians are bad luck for boats. It was something like that, anyway. Jungle Cruise is annoying with or without Whitehall moaning and groaning his way through this two-hour feature based on a Disney ride. Scandalous stuff. Where it worked well for the high seas, it does not for the low streams. Dwayne Johnson and company have their work cut out for them, with a film that feels all too similar to the jungle-clad costumes and designs of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. 

That obvious connection between Johnson appearing in both that revitalised edition of the Robin Williams classic and Jungle Cruise is not particularly exciting. This is no Joseph Conrad adaptation. Jungle Cruise would work better if one of the supporting characters dealt with septicaemia and Paul Giamatti did more than appear with the paycheck stuffed into his jacket pocket. Bless his heart, he must work quick and fast if he wants to top his work in Private Life from a few years back. Jungle Cruise will not do that for him. It will do little for anyone involved. Old legends open and close this strained storyline which filters through the years and years of legendary exploration. What marks this party out as anything unique to those that came before them? Nothing, other than dialogue. Bad dialogue too. Whitehall opens the story as some sort of premature Indiana Jones type. 

But it does not work. He is the fall guy for the big box office names. Between this and the very delayed, inevitably stagnant Clifford the Big Red Dog, his stuttering leap into Hollywood is an odd one. But it is an odd choice for everyone here. Jesse Plemmons and Edgar Ramírez feel misplaced and miscast, but they are not utilised all that much. Emily Blunt and Johnson do most of the heavy lifting for this miserable piece. Most of the jokes are the usual undervaluation of women during this period and the happy-go-lucky charms of a ratchet band of unlikely friends touring the world for great treasures. Wisecracking boat captains, go-getting explorers. We have seen this before, and we have been shown it far better than the uninterested efforts of Jaume Collet-Serra. 

He is an odd choice for this feature. Serra best expresses himself when Liam Neeson is tearing up baddies on various modes of transport. Non-Stop and The Commuter are excellent features, and it is a shame that the growth he found in those action thrillers is absent here. They could have been included, with the venom removed for the child-friendly moments. At least Blunt engages with those when she can, throwing herself around the room, hitting henchmen with mislabelled artefacts from history. They belong in a museum. Jungle Cruise belongs in the bargain bin, where forgotten features go to die. It is not long for this odd little relic, whose merits are few and messy. 

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