Movie Review: Jungle Cruise

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Libby Maier, Critic

Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” hit theaters on July 31 disappointing fans of the beloved ride in which this movie is based off of. As one of the original attractions at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, “Jungle Cruise” has been a fan-favorite for decades, making the ride an obvious choice for a film adaptation. The main flaw with this movie from the start is that it is based on a ride with no story really, as it is just a cruise through the Amazon with bad puns and the Eighth Wonder of the World— The Backside of Water. Disney has made rides to movie adaptations in the past with both “The Haunted Mansion” and “Tomorrowland”; neither were received well by critics or fans and ultimately flopped, so it is not such a big surprise that Disney struck out again with “Jungle Cruise.” 

The movie is set in the 1900s which is mentioned once in the movie— a blink and you’ll miss it moment which leads to 90 percent of this film being very confusing. Both submarines and steamboats make appearances and this movie is set in the Amazon which makes it very unlikely that the submarine would be able to navigate through it. We are introduced to the iconic sibling duo of Lilly and Mcgregor Houghton, played by Emily Blunt and Jack Whitethorn respectively. Early on in the movie the sexist ways of the time period are shown with Mcgregor having to give the speech on a topic he knows nothing about while his sister is an expert on the topic yet she is not taken seriously due to her gender. Lilly does use this bias to her advantage— which is always a good play in a film. 

“Jungle cruise” is known for its puns and jokes, which is the one aspect of the ride that stays throughout the entire film. One of the recurring jokes in the movie was about Lilly wearing pants, which is like any bad joke: Not funny after it’s been said three times already. It was also just an interesting choice of a recurring joke because yes, a woman wearing pants was uncommon for the time but it’s not necessarily something that needs to be mentioned several times, mostly by the films star Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson as Frank Wolff. 

Character wise, there is not much development or meaningful arcs. Instead of giving Lilly a meaningful story arc and character development, she kind of remained the same throughout the entire story— only being given a love story with Wolff that comes out of nowhere and has zero buildup in true Disney fashion. Mcgregor is revealed to be gay which was very obvious to the viewer because of the very campy characterization of him feeding into several of the stereotypes that surround gay men: him into fashion and skin care among other things. Wolff’s arc might be the only one that happens as he changes from a jerk to the one who makes the sacrifice that ends up being undone five seconds later (in true Disney fashion, again.)

There are a lot of just purely unrealistic aspects to the movie, which should always be taken with a grain of salt because this movie was not made to be realistic. With that said, it is stated that Lilly cannot swim, yet she is somehow able to hold her breath underwater for minutes on end and navigate through the water just fine without floating toward the surface. Wolff also ends up just kissing her in order to give Lilly air at one point. This scene is problematic for a number of reasons; first being that the forcing of a love interest for Lilly takes away from her arc as an independent woman in a time where that was unheard of. Second being that it would simply just never work as the second Lilly would’ve opened her mouth to get the air she would’ve taken in more water than air.

The true antagonist of this film is relatively unknown due to the multiple villains who all seem to make their way into the “final battle.” This move can work and has before, but it simply just took away from the severity of the antagonists as a whole and made the threat less impactful. Three conquistadors made out of snakes and insects out for blood is scary and a good threat to the main characters of the story, but adding in a dumb prince from a unknown country takes away from the danger the three amigos present.

“Jungle Cruise” is a mess of a movie that certainly was not worth the wait of three years of delays, but it does a good job of paying homage to the original “Jungle Cruise” and all its wacky one-liners. The “big reveals” fell flat as well as most of the jokes. With such a big budget and an all-star cast, Disney definitely could have done better and missed the mark on another ride to movie adaptation.