Welcome to the Jungle (2013) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: R for brief nudity, crude and sexual humor, some violence, drug content, and language
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Megan Boone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kristen Schaal, Aaron Takahashi, Eric Edelstein, Robert Peters, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Rob Meltzer
Screenplay: Jeff Kauffmann
Review published February 6, 2014
Many viewers who are interested in Welcome to the Jungle are likely doing so due to the presence of Jean-Claude Van Damme (The Expendables 2, Street Fighter), who is not only featured as the prominent player on the film's poster, but gets the bulk of the action in the promo ads and trailer. Sorry to tell you, he isn't the main star, but this also isn't one of those films that features him for only one scene; he's in the film a good amount in a comedic role that plays off of his macho image as a big- time butt-kicker. His self-deprecating role also happens to be the best thing in what is otherwise a fairly dismal and largely unfunny spin on an office comedy ensconced into a "Lord of the Flies" scenario.
JCVD plays a motivational speaker named Storm Rothschild brought in to "pump up" the troops at an advertising firm by taking them to a remote island for two days of team building activities -- man vs. nature style. Things go according to plan until the elderly pilot ends up kicking the bucket and Storm disappears after a tiger attack, presumed to be dead. The remaining office employees then go into a panic, as no one knows where they are, and without any means of getting off the deserted island, they think they're going to have to actually fend for themselves for real. Adam Brody (Baggage Claim, Lovelace), the actual star of the film as Chris, begins to make some progress by using the survival skills he had learned in the Boy Scouts, but his ambitious, ego-driven coworker Phil wants to continue to be the guy in charge at any cost. When alpha-male Phil (Huebel, Rapture-Palooza) begins to bribe the rest of the employees with complete freedom and gifts (especially hallucinogenic herbs) in exchange for their tribal subservience, rifts are formed, causing them all to have to fight for survival, not from the elements as much as from each other.
Welcome to the Jungle is a standard R-rated corporate-culture comedy with extended adventure elements (shot in Puerto Rico), seeming like one really long episode of "The Office" if it were Dwight Schrute vs. Jim Halpert on a desert island gone savage. What starts off with a few decent zingers from time to time ends up for its final half a barrage of crass gags and sophomoric slapstick. Had the film had more satirical bite, a la Office Space, perhaps there would be more here to admire than just seeing a collection of characters we don't like fight it out for island supremacy after Phil goes 'Colonel Kurtz'. Director Rob Meltzer (Royal Standard, A Jewish Christmas Story) directs with zip and gusto, but there's just not enough funny elements in the screenplay by first-time Jeff Kauffmann to give the film comedic momentum for long.
Despite some good comedic performances, especially from Brody, the scene-stealing Van Damme (he nails the comedy with assured deadpan absurdity), and a very game Dennis Haysbert (Wreck-It Ralph) in a small role as the big boss, Welcome to the Jungle fails to deliver enough requisite laughs to be worth going out of one's way for without being a devotee of one of the stars. This one wears out its welcome early.
©2014 Vince Leo