A group of unsuspecting office workers find themselves stranded on a desert island when a corporate retreat led by unhinged former Marine Storm Rothchild (Jean-Claude Van Damme) goes horribly wrong. Now Chris (Adam Brody) and his co-workers must battle nature - and each other - to survive! Welcome to the Jungle is a hilarious journey into the heart of madness also featuring Rob Huebel, Kristen Schaal, Dennis Haysbert, and Megan Boone.
The box art and promos for 'Welcome to the Jungle' can be misleading. The film appears to be a silly comedy starring action icon Jean-Claude Van Damme and some fairly funny comedic actors. The marketing people even billed this as Van Damme's first comedy film, which in my opinion is completely false. You can take most of his acting resume and mark his films as comedies. I know we all laughed at 'Double Team'.
We can add to this false marketing by placing Van Damme front and center on every piece of art for the movie. By doing this, most of us would assume he's the center of attention and the main star of the film. However, that's not the case at all. I don't even think he was in a third of a the movie, but he should have been, if only because his character's name is Storm Rothchild.
We first meet Chris (Adam Brody) who is trying to work his way up at a design firm, but is constantly met with obstacles and his own fear of people and confrontation. The main villain is Chris's co-worker Phil (Rob Huebel), who will lie, cheat, steal, and step on anyone to move ahead in life. The CEO of the company, Mr. Crawford (Dennis Haysbert) and his assistant Troy (Aaron Takahashi) seem to always listen to Phil, no matter what kind of stupid decisions he makes. To make Phil even more hated, he steals an idea from Chris to win a big client, but Chris is too scared to do anything about it, and would rather take the loss than cause a confrontation.
Meanwhile, Chris thinks another one of his co-workers, Lisa (Megan Boone) is the girl of his dreams, but he can't seem to muster the courage to talk with her. Even his best friend Jared thinks he needs to "live a little" and ask her out. But before that can happen, Mr. Crawford informs his employees that he will be taking them to a weekend retreat to the wilderness, led by ex-marine Storm Rothchild (Van Damme), to learn about team building and motivation. Oddly, Rothchild doesn't seem to be all that skilled. In Van Damme's short time on screen, he does manage to get several laughs, poking fun at himself and delivering ridiculous lines.
Storm manages to get the entire office stranded on an island and then gets mauled and taken away by a giant tiger. If this had been a normal "Van Damme' movie, he would have given that tiger a swift round-house kick to the face and made it say "Uncle", but that's not this movie. First time writer Jeff Kauffman and first time feature film director Rob Meltzer seemed to be more interested in just setting up certain comedic scenes rather than telling an engaging and forward moving story. And that is where the ultimate flaw comes in. Once Storm is carried off by the tiger, Phil drugs some of the other employees so that they will follow his leadership skills or lack thereof in the vein of a silly 'Lord of the Flies' type scenario. But since Chris is a former scout and actually has some excellent survival skills, he should be the one leading his co-workers to safety and rescue. Will he be able to overcome his fear of confrontation and face Phil head on to save everyone? You'll have to watch to find out.
The talent here is way underused. Rob Huebel's performances in 'Children's Hospital' and 'I Love You, Man' prove he has the comedic chops to carry a film or TV show, but with this clunky and chaotic script, the actors had little to nowhere to go. Kristen Schaal shows up as a fanatic animal loving woman, which draws some laughs, but nothing much else. Brody tries to do a great job with what he is given, but comes across as cliched and rote. And then there is Van Damme, who either deserved a bigger part or should have been left off the marketing publications, and instead should have been a fun surprise to viewers. 'Welcome to the Jungle' will inspire a few laughs, but it ultimately goes nowhere and should have featured a few more powerful round-houses from Van Damme.
'Welcome to the Jungle' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The image itself looks great. The detail is well-defined throughout, even in the wider shots. At the start of the film the colors are muted and has a somewhat flat image, but this I believe was intentional as to really surprise is with the bright vibrant colors and great detail once on the island. Closeups reveal very fine textures, individual hairs, specks of mud and dirt, and makeup blemishes very well.
The costumes and props all look very good too. The colors are very well saturated and natural looking once on the island with bright blue skies, luscious green landscapes, and nice orange and browns. Contrast is great and the skin tones are always natural. Black levels are consistent and inky. There was a tiny bit of video noise, but it's nothing to write home about. Other than that, there are no other compression issues, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with an excellent lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix presented in several different languages, ranging from English to Thai. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand with no evidence of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The sound effects are loud and robust and flow nicely from the surrounds throughout the entire film.
The island nature sounds are abundant and realistic, along with the heavier action sequences of explosions and fires. All sound great. The score isn't great, but it definitely sounds full and lively and it never drowns out any dialogue or sound effects. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is wide. The bass kicks in from time to time as well. If only the film were as good as this audio and the above video presentation.
Behind The Scenes (HD, 60 mins.) - This is quite a fun hour long behind the scenes documentary that was better than the film itself. There are interviews with cast and crew along with a lot of on-set footage. The best stuff is with Van Damme and his unique skills. Definitely worth watching.
Deleted Scene (2 mins.) - There is only one deleted scene and it's not worth watching.
'Welcome to the Jungle' isn't a great film, but it isn't terrible either. There are some fun moments throughout. i just don't think it is worth owning, unless you need to have every Van Damme film ever made. And even then, he isn't in this movie all that much. The video and audio presentations are excellent, but there is only one solid extra. I recommend you rent this before considering a purchase.