When the House of Mouse isn’t cannibalizing its own animated canon for new live-action remake fodder, Disney has proven that they’re not above mining one of their theme parks’ beloved rides for an adaptation when plotting their next big tentpole release. But “Jungle Cruise,” a long-gestating project finally seeing the light of day in theaters and through Disney+’s Premiere Access PVOD platform, is the rare cynical cash grab that seems more principally concerned with actual crowd-pleasing than brand management or franchise development.
Sure, the film, starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, is clearly a four-quadrant studio picture designed to sell merchandise and inspire Disney World trips. But, for the most part, it sidesteps the many irritating pitfalls most modern blockbusters fall prey to. Instead, it nails a comforting, swashbuckling tone not seen from mainstream adventure films since Stephen Sommers’ “Mummy” films or Gore Verbinski’s original “Pirates” trilogy, both of which “Jungle Cruise” owes a profound debt.
However, as genuinely entertaining as the film turns out to be, it is not without its frustrating drawbacks — chiefly an over-reliance on a pervasive and grating brand of humor that fails to feel of a piece with the rest of the movie’s very welcome throwback vibe.