Dir.: Jaume Collet-Serra; Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Edgar Ramirez; USA 2021, 127 min.
Fizzing with feelgood vibes Jungle Cruise is a blockbuster extravaganza that takes its name from the famous Disney Land theme park ride and brought alive here by Catalonian born director Jaume Collet-Serra and his writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.
After the overwhelming success of Pirates of the Caribbean it comes as no surprise that Disney would chose another fairground theme for a feature film, Taking place1916 during WWI, the action-packed prologue is set in London, where Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) and her gay brother MacGregor (Whitehall) hope that some dusty old relics will lead them to a magical tree in the Amazon jungle so they can harness its much needed healing powers amid the slaughter of the trenches.
Arriving at the Amazons, Lily takes her wuss of a brother in hand and hires Captain Frank Wolff (Johnson) to lead them to the mystical tree. But despite a massive ego the debit-ridden Frank is not really up to it and neither is his shambolic boat. His real name is Francisco and he fetched up here 400 years ago with the conquistadores. Over the centuries his quest for the legendary tree has been in vain in a desperate search to help his soldier friend Aguirre (Ramirez), who needs the petals for his sick daughter Anna. Aguirre still haunts Frank in his nightmares. Meanwhile Prince Joachim, a relative of the German Kaiser, is also after the tree’s petals, hot on the heels of Frank’s motley crew in their U-boat. Luckily, Frank’s pet leopard is there to defend them – despite getting drunk and throwing up. The foursome face a fearful battle before a happy-end delivers them back to London.
Basque DoP Flavio Martinez Labiano can take all the credit for this spectacle. His roving camera almost makes you throw up – never mind the leopard – and his rapid change of lighting angles creates a hostile, supernatural atmosphere of dread. Johnson is, as always ‘The Rock’, but Blunt is no shrinking violet either in the petal quest. Whitehall’s understated MacGregor is just shy of a caricature. Fabulous production values more than make up for the narrative torpor. Just enjoy the fun. AS
IN CINEMAS FROM 30 July 2021