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SYFY WIRE Jungle Cruise

‘Jungle Cruise’ cast shares how film redefines the adventure movie for a new generation

By Vanessa Armstrong
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Critics’ early reactions to Disney’s Jungle Cruise have been overwhelmingly positive, with many comparing it to past fan-favorite family adventure films like 1999’s The Mummy and 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

It’s 20 years later, however, and Jungle Cruise — while channeling the spirit of these past films — has created an updated version of the family-friendly action-adventure movie. In a virtual press conference today attended by SYFY WIRE, Dwayne Johnson ("Frank Wolff"), Emily Blunt ("Lily Houghton"), Jack Whitehall ("MacGregor Houghton"), and Edgar Ramírez ("Aguirre") shared how the film has redefined the genre.

While Jungle Cruise is a well-known and much-loved Disneyland attraction, the movie used the ride as a jumping off point to build a fully realized world. Nailing down the tone of that world was no easy feat, but Ramírez praised the rest of the cast for hitting the nail on the head. “I love everything you did and what you did is very difficult,” he told his co-stars. “That tone, to be witty, and romantic, and funny, and snide but cute at the same time, I mean that is very difficult. We as actors, we know that tone is very difficult to achieve and you guys killed it.”

Getting the tone right — that mix of capturing what people love from older films while creating something new — is something Blunt also gave director Jaume Collet-Serra credit for. “We just needed to pierce people’s hearts directly with the spirit of those films that we all loved as children,” she said, referencing films like Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone, and African Queen. “It took a lot of tempering and beautiful conducting from Jaume, who was just extraordinarily free-spirited with us in this massive spectacle of a movie.”

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In another welcome update from movies past, the Disney film also includes an openly queer character — at one point in Jungle Cruise, Whitehall and Johnson’s characters have a casual conversation, where Whitehall’s MacGregor shares that he’s gay.

“I felt that the scene was really exactly what it was, which was two men talking about what they loved, and who they loved,” Johnson said. “And it was as simple as that, and we were sharing a drink.”

Whitehall agreed with Johnson and added his own perspective. “What’s so great about this movie is that all of the characters feel so fleshed out, and all of them have interesting backstories,” he said. “In a lot of movies of this genre, sometimes you’d have characters that are a little bit two dimensional. I think it’s so great that we get to understand so much about each of these characters, and they all have reasons for being where they are.”

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While the movie is certainly its own creation, there is one aspect of the Jungle Cruise ride that carries over to the screen — the cringe-worthy puns delivered by Johnson. “The element of Jungle Cruise that I liked the most is that it doesn't take itself too seriously,” Whitehall said. “That’s definitely something that we took over to the movie. It has such ambition and scale and is beautiful, and the sets are incredible... It’s got all of that but at the heart of it, it's not a movie that takes itself too seriously. It has wit. It has humor. It's got some of the best puns I've ever heard. It’s got Dwayne Johnson doing a standup comedy routine — what’s not to love about that?”

Everyone loves a good pun. Right? Johnson closed the panel by sharing one of his own.

“Did you hear about the chameleon who couldn’t change colors?” he posited. “He suffered from reptile dysfunction.”

“No! It’s so vile,” Blunt said with a wince. “No!"

You can catch more bad puns when Jungle Cruise sets sail Friday, July 30 in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access.

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