Jungle Cruise -B
Rated PG-13, 127 minutes
The charming, fun new Disney action-adventure "Jungle Cruise" is based its popular riverboat attraction of the same name, but it could easily be called "The Adventures of Pants and Skippy." Given its source material, the story is flimsy at best, but its visuals and the leads' chemistry more than make up for the script's inadequacies.
Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) enlists the aid of wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) to take her down the Amazon River in his ramshackle boat. Along with Lily's younger brother McGregor (comedian Jack Whitehall, memorable in his first major screen role), they search for an ancient tree that holds the power to heal -- a discovery that will change the future of medicine.
The enjoyable "Jungle Cruise" takes its cues from such films as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and another Disney attraction-turned-movie, "The Pirates of the Caribbean." It's directed by Jaume Collet-Serra ("The Commuter") and co-written by "Logan's" Michael Green and filmmaking duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa ("Crazy, Stupid Love"). While not exactly revelatory, original filmmaking, Disney has the deep pockets to fund and market something based on one of its own rides, so it's certainly a win-win for them, even if it doesn't feel new.
"Jungle Cruise" most benefits from its stellar casting: "The Quiet Place's" Emily Blunt and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ("Hobbs & Shaw") have such fine chemistry you may overlook the utter nonsense of the plot, about finding the Tree of Life or something. Comedian Whitehall steals many scenes from his more well-known colleagues in a star-making part, and it's a nice touch to subtly address his character's sexuality. Edgar Ramirez and Jesse Plemmons round out the talented cast as the (literally) slimy villains, which seem plucked straight from "The Pirates of the Caribbean" universe; Oscar-nominee and character actor Paul Giamatti has scant footage to bookend the film.
The first-rate visuals and special effects, including a lovable pet tiger and the big, pink Tree of Life, add some energy to the proceedings, as does James Newton Howard's lively score. Blunt and Johnson's playfulness, including calling each other "Pants" and "Skippy" as well as Skipper's corny Dad jokes, add additional levity. The enjoyable, often exciting "Jungle Cruise" pulls few surprises yet will likely be another big hit for Disney, heck maybe even another movie franchise, and as long as Blunt and Johnson are at the helm, I'm just fine with that.