Erase all thoughts of Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in African Queen from your mind. Delete scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Pretend you’re back at Disneyland on the Jungle Cruise because it lasts eight minutes compared to the film’s 127. The film version equals a theme park ride in fake-itude.
The real watery ride has a better storyline than the film, whose plot exceeds the mud quotient of the Amazon River. Something about a feisty botanist named Lily, tired of being trodden down by her male colleagues (term used advisedly). Something about searching for a flower, called the Tears of the Moon and touted as a panacea. Something about a Great War.
For the Bogart touch, a captain of a sinking ship banters with the botanist in a script constipated by Michael Green among a committee of writers. But for all Dwayne Johnson’s maturation as an actor, the Rock ain’t no Bogie. And as winsome as Emily Blunt has been (Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns), she’s no Kate (she is athletic, however — she brachiates on the rolling ladders of a library, something every Anglophile bibliophile wants to do, really).
The supporting cast represents WWI’s allies and axes: Brit Jack Whitehall (kudos for the character’s telling of coming out) as Lily’s scaredy-cat brother, Italian Paul Giamatti as a boatman, and Spanish Edgar Ramirez as a festering conquistador. Jessie Plemons poorly plays the German element. Even the famous pink river dolphins don’t act right.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra keeps the pace at high-hectic. James Newton Howard’s music overwhelms. Flavio Martinez Labiano’s cinematography works best in overhead shots.
Jungle Cruise, loud and long, is about as solid as the floating vegetation on the Amazon River.