Whoever pitched Disney’s new feature Jungle Cruise must have been a master of hyperbole. “It’s The Mummy meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets African Queen, but imagine Katherine Hepburn as a younger, smokin’ yet independent English hottie, and add the highest paid actor in the world.” If there were ever a final argument for ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’, Jungle Cruise would be it. Potential viewers have to ask themselves, ‘to what extent does mindless entertainment trump inventiveness and originality?’ What can be expected from a film derived from a Disneyland ride? Those who love Pirates of the Caribbean, both the ride and the film series, would say to expect a lot.
A fantasy adventure that takes place during World War I, Jungle Cruise features unflappable riverboat captain Frank Wolff (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) who is asked by intrepid British scientist and adventurer Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) who comes with her land-loving, ineffectual, and overdressed brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) in tow, to journey in his boat in search of a tree with magical powers. Tripping them up are ever-more-sunburnt harbormaster Niro Nenolato (Paul Giamatti), and rich German aristo Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who also seeks the magic tree, and is somewhat inexplicably chasing them in a submarine.
Obviously the ride down an African river with a boat skipper and a plucky dame being chased by a sub is straight out of African Queen, notably sans Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. As for references to other films, there are dead that come back to life (PoC), bees driven by hell (The Mummy), action in which an explorer must fight against deadly foes (a gender-switched The Mummy), with a bumbling brother tagging along (The Mummy). There are many other references that would spoil the story, but suffice to say you’ll find them in every scene. At least the filmmakers come by their African Queen inspiration honestly. When creating the original ride, Disney imagineer Harper Goff frequently referenced the film. It’s why they used a steamer like the African Queen as source material for the design in both the ride and the new film.
To read the review in its entirety, go to AWFJ.org HERE.