Here we have the next Disney flick based on one of their rides. Perhaps one may remember 'The Haunted Mansion' with Eddie Murphy, or this other little title, 'Pirates of the Caribbean' - so this isn't exactly a first. The real question is, is it more 'Mansion' (which was very mediocre), or more 'Pirates' (which became its own successful franchise)? The short answer - as one might expect, it's somewhere in the middle, but it does lean much more towards 'Pirates' in style and execution.
The film opens with a little background, telling about how in the 16th century, a group of Spanish conquistadors go to South America to search for a tree whose petals can cure just about anything; known as the now mythological "Tears of the Moon". Things go down, and long story short, these conquistadors end up cursed by the jungle (a whole story that's unveiled later in the movie). We fast-forward to London, 1916, where Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall), present Lily's research on the Tears of the Moon, and suggest its aid in the British war effort, using its pedals to heal their wounded. They further request access to an arrowhead, believed to be the key to finding this tree. The pair are brushed aside, but Lily acquires it anyway, and the adventure begins.
Eventually, the pair come across Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), who poses as harbourmaster, Nilo (Paul Giamatti) when he realizes Lily has an arrowhead he apparently knows something about. He promises her and her brother a jungle tour that will potentially lead to the Tears of the Moon. However, on their tail, like any good 'Indiana Jones' movie, is a German Prince named Joachim (Jesse Plemons). He is also after the arrowhead and wants the Tears for his own selfish reasons. As the chase goes on, they encounter all the jungle can throw at them, but are they prepared to face some of the more dangerous things lurking in the jungle? Liker perhaps a few cursed conquistadors who can use jungle elements as, pretty much super powers?
This is a movie that seems to borrow a lot from pre-existing material, and makes me think of it as a cross between 'Indiana Jones' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. But I might suggest I had more fun with those titles. There are a few moments to this that don't make a lot of sense, and it was a fun adventure, but it was no 'Curse of the Black Pearl' (still the best 'Pirates' movie, in my opinion) where I had a great time with it. This was entertaining, and not a bad one for a family night out to the theater. I really think that if I was younger, I would have had much more fun with this than I actually did. But I will say that the film isn't without a few things to praise.
Although some of the CG is kind of weak, I have to admit that I rather enjoyed what they did with the cursed conquistadors. That part is very reminiscent of 'Dead Man's Chest', and the curse involved with that. The CG might not pop, but the concept of these half-man, half-whatever characters was always something I thought was cool. I also don't normally like Jesse Plemons in anything he does, but his performance here as a bit of a bumbler was actually kind of great. He's still the big bad guy here, and at moments to be taken seriously, but on the whole, it seems to be an almost unintentionally humorous portion of the movie.
My final thoughts on this are pretty simple. I think if you've got a family with children who are chomping at the bit to get back into theaters, this is a perfectly fine, fun adventure movie that's good for everyone. There may be some scary bits for the little ones, but that's about where I compare it to the 'Pirates' movies. If your kid can survive a 'Pirates' movie, they can survive this. While it may not be something I had a blast with, it's something I'd recommend as a "first time back" (namely for us Canadians who have been stuck a little longer) for a family outing. For just the average movie-goer though, it's all dependent on taste. There are better adventure flicks out there, but I have to admit that its been a while since I've seen a decent jungle flick, and this really wasn't bad at all.