Cruising into new content

Disney defies tradition and adds diversity into their latest movie… sort of


Photo courtesy of Disney

Jungle Cruise made its way to the theaters on July 30, 2021.

Kaitlin Reynolds, News Director

Amazonian River water surging beneath my feet, a breeze gushing through my hair and wild animals lurking beside me is what I imagined as I watched Disney’s newest adventure film: Jungle Cruise.

Much like the multibillion dollar series, Pirates of the Caribbean, the movie was loosely based around the infamous Walt Disney World attraction. The classic ride made up of a relaxing boat tour, exotic animals and tacky dad jokes is widely enjoyed by guests of the park. For me the movie rendition was no exception to this fondness. 

The film dives straight into the adventure from the very first scene where Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) fights off multiple antagonists to steal the arrowhead needed to begin her expedition. Shortly after, Lily meets up with her reluctant brother McGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) and skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) in Brazil. Together they navigate the Amazon aboard Frank’s ramshackle boat in search of an ancient orchid tree with the power to heal all ills. Along the way they run into rough waters, and are faced with countless magical menaces, human enemies and environmental obstacles.

The action packed film brought life to the seemingly calm theme park attraction. Several aspects of the ride were tied in throughout the movie, one of which was the frequent pun filled wisecracks. They were definitely not lacking and generated laughs from both myself and other viewers in the theater. In addition, Frank plays the role of a tour guide pointing out adventure along the route, parallel to the popular Disney destination. I thought that these small touches helped to bring the ride to the theater and create a unique experience.

In between the high intensity scenes and giggle inducing remarks, Disney made a statement. In a conversation with Frank about failed marriage proposals, McGregor disclosed that his relationship interest lied “elsewhere” and explained his appreciation for his sister’s support. I found that the use of a queer character was a breath of fresh air from Disney’s typical “princess falling for prince charming” storyline. However, the film brought up his sexuality in a beating around the Amazon bush kind of way. It took me a second to grasp hold of the scene’s intent, and I can see how the phrasing could lead to confusion for the movie’s younger target audience. I would have liked for the topic to have been addressed more clearly, and for a possible love interest to have been introduced. It was a step in a more LGBTQ+ inclusive direction for the company, but the anchor did not quite reach the river bed.

Oftentimes I find myself getting bored during movies, but Jungle Cruise was an exception to this trend. As the plot moved forward the action continued. From wrestling matches with wild cats to escapes from enemy torpedoes, the movie held my interest. The film’s soft moments and heartfelt conversations filled gaps and brought an emotional aspect to the theater. 

The movie was primarily enjoyable however I did not care for the lackluster ending. Even though Lily, McGregor and Frank were able to retrieve a single pedal from the tree, I still had some unanswered questions as I watched the closing scene where they rode off into London. Will they revisit the tree to collect more pedals? What will they do with the magic? Who will be after them next? I left wanting more and I think that a sequel is needed to complete the story line. 

The film took me on a wild ride with action, touching moments and comical jokes around every meander. I would definitely recommend it to someone looking for a family friendly thrill, however the movie did not quite make its way upriver into my Top 10 due to a few leaks in the boat.