Welcome to the Jungle: Film Review
Friday, Feb. 7 (Cinedigm)
Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kristen Schaal, Megan Boone, Eric Edelstein, Aaron Takahashi, Kristopher Van Varenberg, Dennis Haysbert
Director Rob Meltzer and screenwriter Jeff Kauffman will have a hard time recovering from this island-set bomb.
A crew of office drones from Nowheresville reenact Lord of the Flies in Rob Meltzer's Welcome to the Jungle, a picture being billed as Jean-Claude Van Damme's first comedy. That description is arguable on two fronts: it undervalues the laugh-generating capability of many of JCVD's ostensibly serious outings, while grossly overestimating the comedic value here. Whether it's his first or his 20th comedy, though, most of the ticket buyers who witness its short theatrical run will agree this should be his last.
Not that Van Damme is the main difficulty here. In fact, as he's barely on screen for a third of its running time, the action hero can convincingly distance himself from blame. (If only his agent could have had him moved to the margins of the pic's marketing materials.) His costars, many of whom have some credible comic work under their belts, are even less likely culprits. One wonders what attracted them to first-timer Jeff Kauffmann's unoriginal, wholly unfunny script.
Adam Brody plays Chris, a milquetoast hoping to move up the ladder in his firm whose ambitions are quashed by underhanded middle-manager Phil (Rob Huebel). When the company's head (Dennis Haysbert) sends his crew on a survivalist team-building exercise, Van Damme's Storm promptly gets them stranded on an island with no supplies and no means of contacting the mainland. Then he's carried off by a tiger, leaving Eagle Scout Chris as the only member of the party with any survival skills. If only he had the leadership skills to match them. Instead, Phil soon drugs the survivors and makes himself a god-like leader, with Chris guiding a handful of holdouts -- the generic hot girl (Megan Boone), stoner dude (Eric Edelstein), and nutso pet-fixated lady (Kristen Schaal) -- in an attempt to get rescued.
Cobbling together an assortment of stale desert-island tropes and more than a few references to the relative size and weight of the menfolk's balls, the story makes 94 minutes seem as long as a season of Lost and as fresh as the seventh viewing of a Gilligan's Island rerun. Poor Van Damme, who parodies his usual grim determination, resurfaces from time to time to watch the action from the sidelines. Who would blame him if he quietly edged so far into the undergrowth we forgot he was ever there?
Production Company: Pimienta Film Company
Cast: Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kristen Schaal, Megan Boone, Eric Edelstein, Aaron Takahashi, Kristopher Van Varenberg, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Rob Meltzer
Screenwriter: Jeff Kauffmann
Producers: Justin Kanew, Luillo Ruiz
Executive producers: Robert Bevan, Alex Goldstone, Samantha Horley, Jeff Kauffmann, Cyril Megret, Brad Roth, Alan Pao, Mark Felstein, Corey Large, Ewan Jackson Leslie, Stephen Hays, Peter Graham
Director of photography: Eric Haase
Production designer: Leslie Keel
Music: Karl Preusser
Costume designer: Anita Ramirez
Editor: Harry Yoon
No rating, 94 minutes