Jungle Cruise was only the second movie I saw in the cinema since it reopened from the COVID-19 lockdown, and it was money well spent.
(It helped that we saw it in Amsterdam’s magnificent Tuschinski Theater. If you’re ever in town, take two hours out of your schedule to see a movie in what Time Out has called the most beautiful cinema in the world.)
Jungle Cruise is a throwback to classic adventures like Indiana Jones, Jungle Book, Tarzan and The Africa Queen, but, unlike the more deliberate and grown-up The Lost City of Z, this one is family-friendly and a whole lot more fun.
Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson are cast well opposite each other as the intrepid Dr Lily Houghton, who is determined to find the Tree of Life whose petals can cure any illness, and who has no patience for the disbelief and sexism of the male explorers of her time, and steamboat skipper Frank Wolff, who knows the Amazon like his back pocket. Jack Whitehall provides comic relief as Lily’s snob younger brother.
In addition to the rainforest and the supernatural, our heroes must battle Emperor Wilhelm II’s youngest son, Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons), who hopes to harness the Tree of Life for Germany.
More sophisticated reviewers have criticized Jungle Cruise for its “blatantly faux exoticism that feels as flat as the forced frisson between its two leads” (The New York Times) and “attempt to sell the Magic Kingdom’s vintage, colonialism-a-go-go boat ride as the next big endless-summer-movie thing” (Rolling Stone). Currently it has a 63 percent “fresh” rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but 92 percent approval from the audience (restoring my faith in democracy). Don’t listen to the sourpusses; enjoy the movie.