When we took the family to Disneyland for the first time a few years back, the very first ride we went on was the Jungle Cruise.
Once you get past the fun novelty of it being one of the park’s original rides, all you are left with are some creaky animatronic animals, a boat “captain” who relentlessly assaults you with bad puns and some questionably xenophobic encounters with natives.
The whole experience was mildly amusing, but once was enough for us and the ride was not revisited again, not even on a return trip a few years later.
So if Disney’s goal was to create a cinematic experience equal to the ride, they absolutely nailed it with the new movie “Jungle Cruise.”
Haphazardly cribbing from everything from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” to “The African Queen,” “Jungle Cruise” stars Dwayne Johnson as Frank, a hard-luck riverboat captain on the Amazon in the early 20th century.
Frank accepts a charter from British explorer Lily (Emily Blunt) and her reluctant, aristocratic brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) to go in search of a legendary tree whose flowers can cure any ailment.
They are pursued by the villainous German Prince Joachim (a weirdly miscast Jesse Plemons who isn’t really sure if he’s supposed to be evil or the comic relief) who is somehow able to pilot a U-boat into the Amazon.
Along the way they encounter raging rapids, dangerous, computer-generated animals, cursed conquistadors and Paul Giamatti with an inexplicable Italian accent.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, working with a screenplay with more names attached to it than the Declaration of Independence, is gamely throwing everything at the wall here and hoping that something sticks.
Ultimately it’s the charm and charisma of Blunt and Johnson that pulls this thing across the finish line. Barely. So while “Jungle Cruise” isn’t the worst ride you could take, it’s probably a better move to just get back in line for Space Mountain again.
“Jungle Cruise” is rated PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence.