A company retreat on a tropical island goes terribly awry.
Before I get into a more formal review on this film, I wanted to start off with a the highest deserving statement I could muster…”Welcome to the Jungle” is without a doubt my favorite comedic film of the year!. I tend to not issue those statements lightly but for fans of cult-deserving comedy, this is a must have/see for 2014.
Those who have been waiting for comedy that arrives in the same packing brilliance as films like “Clerks” and “The Office Space”, might have shared the same concern as I have over the past years…. comedy had lost it’s edge. When I originally received word of a film title by the name of “Welcome to the Jungle” that featured Jean-Claude Van Damme in one its starring roles…I will admit I was expecting the usual Jean-Claude Van Damme style film with martial arts moves, action and some version of a “come to the aid of others” premise. It is also my routine to avoid reading synopsis, reviews or in even in many cases, watching the trailers (yep even the ones we post on our own site!)
So it is fair to say I came with no real preconceptions outside of the norm. It only took the first 5 minutes to announce…wow, so this is a comedy….and it’s already damn funny!. Reason enough to push all agendas aside and dig into what I’m comfortable with posting as comic brilliance.
The film was written by Jeff Kauffmann, who appears to be a 1st-timer. Directed by Rob Meltzer, you would also think that as “feature first timer” the 2 would not have enough background to pull something like this off. Boy, was I wrong, the entire cast provides a hilarious base that combines perfectly with Jean-Claude Van Damme tough guy persona. The characters from this film may even have earned themselves the coveted character associations that we still to this day dispensed as office humor from the “Office space” era.
With all that said, if that isn’t enough to seek this one out, then there is no point reading any further. But for those who just have to know….a formal review is indeed earned.
As office life goes Chris (Adam Brody) is just too nice of a guy to step up to the plate and defend his own honor. This includes the opener when “film-A-hole” Phil (Rob Huebel) decides to claim Chris’s design work as his own concept. Chris who should have received the credit gets ignored, stomped on, and even dismissed by the CEO as being just not the material that office bully Phil is. Chris, the office nice guy continues to take the abuse of co-workers while he watches those undeserving get promoted. Chris also has a crush on HR manager Lisa (Megan Boone) (star of the hit series “The Black List”), but lacks the courage to pursue it.
When a corporate team building coach named Storm Rothchild (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is called in, it becomes clear that the entire office group is about to embark on a new journey that they weren’t prepared for. Storm Rothchild, an ex-military bad-ass runs group outings that consist of flying teams to a remote island where they must demonstrate their ability to survive in the jungle. With word of a potential downsizing, the team fears that they might be graded on their ability to champion leadership in the wild.
All is great, right down to the obnoxious brochures that Storm hands out, but as the exercises begin the team soon finds themselves forced to fend on their own. A tiger attacks Stormm of whom they assume is dragged away for dead leaving just the team. When Chris unassumingly pisses on the now deceased pilot who brought them here it becomes clear that they will have to tough it out for survival.
This becomes the opportunity for narcissistic Phil to instantly try and claim leadership against the more knowledgeable former-boy-scout Chris. It becomes a reason to divide the camp between those who want to follow Chris and his survival know-how and those who just want to party and indulge in camp debauchery. When Phil unknowingly gets most of the camp to ingest an island drug called “jimsum”, the group quickly flips into a “Lord of the Flies” routine complete with tribal conditions proclaiming Phil as the “God of the island” Orco.
Most of what makes this film so damn hilarious comes with a firm helping of office politics, survival chaos and situational jokes that make every scene worthy of a laugh-out-loud moment. Even when the group initially is asked to demonstrate each of their tribal” screams”, we get a hilarious mix of over the top performances.
There is more here to cover in funny moments than any review can list, but as most can guess when office workers are suddenly ripped from their way of life and forced to live in a tribal setting, it becomes a tidal wave of absurdity and displaced humanity. “Welcome to the Jungle” is first on my list this year to add to my collection of films that are a “must own”. Do yourself a favor and bring this one to the next party you are asked to attend….you wont regret it!