FAN EFFECT PODCAST: Fans of the ride will love “Jungle Cruise,” fans of family features will enjoy the ride of the film

Jul 31, 2021, 9:30 AM | Updated: 4:12 pm
(L-R): Jack Whitehall as Macgregor, Emily Blunt as Lily and Dwayne johnson as Fran in Disney's "Jun...
(L-R): Jack Whitehall as Macgregor, Emily Blunt as Lily and Dwayne johnson as Fran in Disney's "Jungle Cruise." Photo by Frank Masi. (c) 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Jungle Cruise ride has earned its iconic place as one of the most beloved attractions in all the Disney parks. And, as one of the 33 original rides on Disneyland’s opening day, the cruise through the rivers of the world has seen a variety of changes and literal growth. Now, 66 years after its debut, Disney has adapted the attraction into a big-budget movie with giant stars and colorful special effects.

So I wondered — will fans of the ride be fans of the film? 

As an avid Disneylander and a blatantly biased lover of the Adventureland area of the parks where the ride is found (I literally throw a Disney’s Adventureland party every summer), I think I can honestly say “yes!”

Jungle Cruise” stars fan favorites Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Emily Blunt, as mismatched adventurers journeying down the beautifully dangerous Amazon river after a mystical prize and pursued by a tenuously greedy villain. The film takes us from the Post-Edwardian splendor of London’s society to the rough-and-tumble depths of the Amazonian rainforest on the edge of civilization and magic.

Botanical researcher Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) doggedly pursues an ancient tree rumored to have unparalleled healing abilities, unperturbed by the restrictive conventions of the scientific community that had dismissed her. She drags along her prim but supportive younger brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), and the siblings engage the services of a flippantly wisecracking guide, Skipper Frank Wolff (Johnson), and his derelict boat, La Quila. 

As they journey through the depths of the jungle, a mystery unfolds involving cursed conquistadors, protective indigenous tribespeople, breathtaking geography, and dangerous creatures. But Lily is not the only one in pursuit of the powers of the mythical tree. Prince Joachim of Prussia (Jesse Plemons), the youngest son of power-hungry Kaiser Wilhelm II, is trailing them closely in, of all things, a submarine. And he is willing to ally with dark forces to reach his goal.

In a race against time and nature, the fate of mankind’s future lays in the hands of the ragtag adventurers and the key to a lesser-known legend. 

As audiences follow the cast of characters deeper into the jungle, a deeper mystery evolves, as well as deeper themes of power, trust, and discovery. 

The strengths of the film lie in the stunning production design, the unraveling mystery, and of course, the charming performances of leads Johnson and Blunt. The comic chemistry in the classic troupe that “opposites attract” works well for the characters, as well as the written banter and chaotic turns that bring them closer together.

Blunt serves up intelligence and tenacity with a pleasing dollop of warmth and surprising strength in action sequences. Johnson adds humor to his action-hero reputation, while Whitehall’s performance of the bumblingly dedicated brother makes you want to see more of his acting in the future.

Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff and Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton in "Jungle Cruise." Photo by Frank Masi. (c)2020 Disney Enterprise, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Dwayne Johnson as Frank Wolff and Emily Blunt as Dr. Lily Houghton in “Jungle Cruise.” Photo by Frank Masi. (c)2020 Disney Enterprise, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Fans of the ride will delight in the peppering of familiar puns, ride references, and many easter eggs. Non-fans will enjoy a family film in a familiar genre that parents can appreciate along with their kiddos. 

The flaws of the film lie in its extensive length; at two hours and seven minutes, tightening up the pace would have added a bit more thrill to the ride and made it easier for younger audiences to pay attention. The peril of the villain could have been made more clear (and earlier in the film) to add to the suspense. And while the digital effects add to the vibrant color and texture of the film, the imagery and movement of the digital animals were less believable than the animatronics at the parks.

Also, as my cohost on KSL’s Fan Effect Podcast, Andy Farnsworth said in his review for KSL-TV, “Though at times it seemed like “Jungle Cruise” was aimed at young kids, there was imagery and violence that was way too grown up for them.” I can verify Andy’s concern.  I am prone to nightmares and did have a bad dream related to the story after I saw the film.

Jungle Cruise is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of adventure violence, and I would add some warnings for supernatural chills and some light comedic innuendos. 

Honesty, the potential critical death of this film would be overcoming the desire to compare it to other comedic action adventures. While the film doesn’t quite live up to the spectacular legacy of the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, it far exceeds the ho-hum reputation of “Haunted Mansion.” It shines well above the current flat landscape of Disney remakes, sequels, and prequels. 

Overall I would give the film a B+ and confirm it provides a fanciful escape and pleasant distraction from the current parallels of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In fact, the film reminded me of the original purpose of the Adventureland area of the parks! 

In 1955 when Walt Disney opened Disneyland, he described the theming of each area with a unique dedicatory speech for each location; Adventureland’s area dedication is as follows, “Here is adventure. Here is romance. Here is mystery. Tropical rivers – silently flowing into the unknown. The unbelievable splendor of exotic flowers … the eerie sound of the jungle … with eyes that are always watching. This is Adventureland.

The only addition I would add to this description to summarize the film would be, “Here is also some delightfully punny humor and heart.”

“Jungle Cruise” is now playing both in theaters and available to stream on Disney Plus Premier. Meaning you will have to pay to see this film, as it is not part of your regular Disney Plus Premier. In my opinion, it is a film to see on the big screen, but for younger audiences, it might be best to view it at home where you can pause the lengthy film for breaks and forward through some of the scary situations.

The movie will be available free as part of the regular Disney Plus offerings on November 12, 2021, if you want to risk spoilers while waiting. 

KSL Fan Effect podcast cohost KellieAnn Halvorsen on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise ride, Fall Dapper Day 2019. Photo by Lorie Halvorsen.

Did you like this review? Do you want more content like this? KellieAnn Halvorsen is cohost of KSL’s Fan Effect podcast with Andy Farnsworth. On Fan Effect, hosts share their knowledge (and arguments) of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Gaming, Tech, and more as they celebrate Utah’s unique fan-culture, bring on local guests experts to discuss their favorite fandoms and events. 

Listen regularly on your favorite platform, at kslnewsradio.com, or on the KSL App. Join the conversation on Facebook @FanEffectShow, Instagram @FanEffectShow, and Twitter @FanEffectShow. Fan Effect is sponsored by Megaplex Theatres, Utah’s premiere movie entertainment company. 


Mark Jones

Soap box derby set for Saturday in Daybreak

Daybreak will host the second annual Soap Box Derby on Saturday from noon to 3 p.m.
1 month ago
Nicolas Cage as “Nick Cage” contemplates his career in Mallorca, Spain in “The Unbearable Wei...
KellieAnn Halvorsen

FAN EFFECT REVIEW: “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a hilarious grown-up comedy with an emphasis on grown-up

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a wonderfully weird, insightfully intelligent, and absolutely hilarious grown-up action-comedy. 
1 month ago
Garth Brooks Salt Lake...
Simone Seikaly

Garth Brooks sells out second Salt Lake concert in 45 minutes

It was the second time in less than a year that Garth Brooks sold that many tickets for a Salt Lake City concert so quickly.
1 month ago
FILE - Alec Baldwin performs emcees the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala at...
MORGAN LEE Associated Press

New Mexico fines ‘Rust’ for willful gun safety failures

Inspectors say Rust production managers took limited or no action to address two rifle misfires of blank rounds on set prior to the fatal shooting.
1 month ago
Netflix subscribers...
MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer

Netflix aims to curtail password sharing, considers ads

Netflix says it will try to minimize password sharing and consider creating a low-cost subscription supported by advertising.
1 month ago
Sistine chapel exhibition...
Samantha Herrera

Sistine Chapel exhibition coming to Salt Lake

Ceiling frescos from the Sistine Chapel are reproduced and presented in a viewer-friendly way in this exhibition
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

Prescription opioid...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
FAN EFFECT PODCAST: Fans of the ride will love “Jungle Cruise,” fans of family features will enjoy the ride of the film