An old fashioned, terribly far-fetched, rollicking adventure fantasy, based on a Disneyland attraction that has been operating since 1955, Jungle Cruise benefits from the talents of Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.
Set at the height of World War I – 1916 to be more precise – it concerns a long-standing hunt for an elixir with remarkable healing powers.
The story dates back four centuries.
A determined English botanist, Dr Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), accompanied by her reluctant brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), purloin an old artefact that they hope will unlock the age-old mystery.
And that involves a river boat cruise to the most dangerous part of the Amazon River.
Dr Houghton engages a decidedly shady skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to get them there.
He is in hock to a man – Nilo (Paul Giamatti) – who controls all the river boats in the region but his.
The Houghtons aren’t the only ones chasing the holy grail.
German Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) will stop at nothing to get to the healing properties of what are known as The Tears of the Moon.
While Wolff has a ramshackle wooden vessel, Joachim has a submarine with torpedoes, no less.
After a decidedly shaky start, Wolff and Dr Houghton find a level of understanding, which is solidified when Wolff reveals a secret.
Then it becomes a race to the finish line to see who will get their hands on a precious petal from a tree that can save lives.
Corny jokes, mock indignation and special effects wizardry are the order of the day.
Let’s just say the origins of the story are questionable (totally preposterous, in fact), but in this case that hardly matters, for it is the interplay between the principal characters that counts.
I speak of the love/hate relationship between brother and sister, and sister and skipper, in particular.
The chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Blunt is strong.
He adopts his usual hulking, chiselled, wise cracking persona and she is as earnest as can be given the slapstick nature of the offering.
Visually, Jungle Cruise is easy to watch.
The set pieces involving mayhem and explosions serve the piece well.
The visual effects are suitably impressive and advanced.
At a tad over the two-hour mark though, the movie appears to have been unnecessarily stretched.
The scriptwriters could readily have condensed the offering. A brisk 90 minutes would have done me fine.
Still, Jungle Cruise should appeal to younger audience members.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Commuter), it scores a 6 out of 10.