Jean-Claude van Damme is probably one of the most interesting 80’s/90’s action stars working today. While Arnie, Sly and Steven stick to the tried and true action formula the last couple of years Van Damme suddenly pops up in all kinds of different projects. The almost art-house action movie “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” where he sports black and white face paint, the French-spoken drama JVCD, voice acting in Kung Fu Panda 2, small roles in foreign movies and villainous roles in The Expendables 2 and Enemies Closer. Now he can add a comedic role to his C.V. as his character of Storm Rothchild in the movie Welcome to the Jungle is just plain hilarious.
Though front and center on the poster Van Damme’s part as a survivalist leading a group of office folk on a deserted island as part of a team-building exercise is comparable to that of Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea. After a run-in with a tiger the muscles from Brussels disappears for most of the remaining running time leaving the office-workers on their own resulting in an over the top version of Lord of the Flies.
The actual lead is played by Adam Brody as Chris, a timid office worker who doesn’t have the guts to stand up to his idea-stealing superior and to talk to the token hot girl of the office; Lisa (Megan Boone). Stranded on the island without a guide or a pilot (he died) the office workers quickly divide themselves into two camps: one led by Chris consisting of Lisa, crazy bunny woman Brenda and Seth Rogen look-a-like Jared. The others are being led by Chris’ superior Phil who knows nothing about nature and quickly has his tribe under the influence of hallucinogenic berries resulting in a bunch of savages that have little to no sophistication any more. Chris on the other hand is an Eagle Scout and has just enough know-how to be able to have the group survive until they are rescued.
The biggest problem I had with Welcome to the Jungle was the whole “Lord of the Flies” element of the story. The pilot is dead and Storm is also presumably, so it’s reasonable the office workers are panicking. But the owner of the company they work for hasn’t joined them so he’s sure to start alerting the proper authorities when nobody shows up on Monday. Not that the entire plot can be taken seriously though, this is a group of people who apparently can’t hunt anything, but are able to build Phil, who they eventually see as a god, an enormous statue within a day.
Welcome to the Jungle is funny from time to time and especially Van Damme is able to get the most laughs out of it by making fun of himself. Other than that it’s a generic comedy where it’s obvious that Chris will eventually stand up to Phil and woo Lisa at the same time.
Just make sure you turn of that side of your brain that focuses on realism before watching Welcome to the Jungle. It’s a fun movie and a nice change of style for Van Damme.