Twitter Plot Summary: A team building exercise goes horribly wrong on a tropical island. People go a bit crazy, the good guy gets the girl. The end.
Who wouldn’t want to go on a corporate retreat to a tropical island in the company of Jean-Claude Van Damme? Not with this lot of office-based reprobates, that’s for sure. In a bid to unite the office of an advertising firm, senior manager Dennis Haysbert (still hasn’t improved on his role as President Palmer in 24 in my book) sends them all off to an island on a team building exercise under the care of Storm, a self-parodying performance from Jean-Claude Van Damme. When he’s taken out of the picture after a surprise encounter with a tiger (a particular highlight), this ineffectual bunch of office employees must try and survive long enough to be rescued. What follows sees the group split into two camps, one a drug-filled, sex-crazed dictatorship and the other, smaller group trying to figure out how to get everyone back to the mainland.
Adam Brody is Chris, a young, laid back employee at an advertising company, socially awkward, impossible with women and prone to having his best marketing ideas stolen by his horrible boss Phil (Rob Huebel). This establishes the rivalry that sets off events on the island. After they discover a psychotropic drug, Phil establishes himself as the ruler of a tribal society and bends the easily swayed into worshipping him. On the other side is Chris, the obligatory love interest Lisa (Megan Boone) and a drug-induced best friend in the form of Jared (Eric Edelstein).
Kristen Schaal is enjoyably goofy as the rabbit-obsessed Brenda, although in a cast as large as this her main role is to be a secondary female character behind Megan Boone’s Lisa. her quirky interest in rabbits is almost immediately forgotten about in favour of some generally weird behaviour, either in a bid to stand out or because the script insisted she should be a bit kooky for the sake of it.
So where are the problems? For starters the music score is often too loud, often threatening to drown out the dialogue. But then you might consider this to be an improvement because the dialogue itself is often verging on dire. The plot is one that doesn’t broach new ground, sticking very rigidly to the classic conceit of antagonistic co-worker facing off against laid back but good hearted everyman. He will of course end up with the obligatory love interest and Phil will get his comeuppance, but it’s difficult to suspend disbelief as almost every aspect of the plot – with the exception of every appearance from Jean-Claude Van Damme – can be telegraphed from the opening credits.
What does work however are many of the jokes, and in particular any scene involving Van Damme. He is in knowing self-referential territory, parodying his action star history with a nod and a wink at all times, and displaying a flair for comedy that may or may not have been developed through his recent involvement in the Coors Light advertising campaign. It’s a rare occasion where you wished a film would have more Van Damme in it, but Welcome To The Jungle proves to be precisely that film. A shame really – some more insanely enjoyable Van Damme comedy moments would have been a very welcome addition. To the jungle. Ahem.