Disney has already turned its theme park rides The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion into movies (one being just a bit more successful than the other) and now it is the turn of the Disneyland riverboat attraction (launched when the first park opened back in 1966) to get its own big screen adaptation.
While the ride is just a boat journey with some fake animals and a tour guide delivering a pun-filled commentary, the movie is more like an Indiana Jones-style adventure as scientist Lily Houghton (Blunt) and her brother MacGregor (Whitehall) navigate the river, rapids and assorted dangers with the help of boat skipper Frank (Johnson).
They are in search of a flower that grows on the Tree of Life that is hidden deep in the jungle and is believed to possess healing powers that Lily believes could help the world of medicine. Of course, there are others searching for it who don’t have quite such noble intentions, including the obsessive German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) who wants the flower for his own nefarious reasons.
Reminiscent of old-fashioned adventures like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy (the 1999 version, not the 21st century Tom Cruise disastrous reboot), this is great fun, filled with snappy dialogue, enjoyable stunts and terrific special effects (including a CGI big cat, and bad guys who have literally become part of the jungle thanks to a curse).
Kids who aren’t easily spooked (this is a 12A certificate in the UK, for the reasons listed under ‘Parents’ Notes’ below) will thoroughly enjoy this family adventure, and it is just as entertaining for grown ups – even if the plot is a tiny bit predictable.
Any obvious plot points can be forgiven, however, because the performances of the three leads here are so much fun. Blunt is a terrific action hero, Johnson is great as her river escort (and yes, he does deliver some deliciously corny jokes, just like the real Disney Jungle Cruise guides) and Whitehall is really likeable as the hapless Brit abroad.
Together they have great chemistry, and are the best reason to step aboard this action-packed riverboat journey and enjoy the ride.
Is Jungle Cruise suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
There are characters in the movie who have been cursed to be absorbed by the jungle. When they emerge, their faces are twisted with vines, and in the case of one character, they are formed of a bee’s nest and missing half their face. The effects of similar scariness to those of the drowned sailors in the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, so may be a little frightening for the under-10s.
While the characters are often in danger, running from gun fire, explosions etc, there is little sign of blood and younger viewers are unlikely to be too frightened.
There is some mild bad language.
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