Welcome to the Jungle (US - BD RA)
Gabe was told that there would be fun and games and found none...
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. (From Universal’s official synopsis)
They tell you not to judge a book by its cover or a movie by its poster, but Welcome to the Jungle (not to be confused with Peter Berg’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson vehicle, The Rundown, which was titled Welcome to the Jungle in non-US territories) is a valid exception to that rule. The poster, which features every major cast member staring at the viewer and includes two tag lines (‘Unleash your inner beast!’ and ‘Not your typical day at the office’), is a perfect indication the middling content and eager-to-please energy found within. The faces the actors are making even define their characters’ major traits. Director Rob Meltzer (whose only other feature release is a 1997 indie comedy called A Jewish Christmas Story, which imdb briefly describes as ‘a romantic comedy about a Jewish guy who's obsessed with shiksas’) delivers the mediocrity his film’s poster promises, but is a talented enough visualist to help ensure Welcome to the Jungle isn’t a complete embarrassment. At the very least, it features a lot of attractive digital photography of beautiful jungle and beach locales.
The screenplay, credited to Jeff Kauffman with polishes by Doug Magnuson ( Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) and Jon Greenlagh, is sort of a jungle action variant on Christopher Smith’s horror-comedy Severance, minus the vicious violence. Or maybe Office Space mixed with Lord of the Flies, minus Mike Judge’s clever insight into office politics and big laughs. The characters are all written with the very recognizable comedians’ strengths in mind, turning talented individuals into pale impressions of themselves. Occasionally, the performances will overcome the monotony of the material, but none of the jokes are unexpected and the lamest ones can be seen coming from miles away (I was really hoping they’d avoid the obvious Apocalypse Now spoof…). The predictability is a smaller problem than the repetitious and badly paced center act. Here, Kauffman and Meltzer drag out already overdrawn and unfunny jokes – all of which are tasteless, but none of which are tasteless enough to really care about – then attempt to switch gears into inexplicable and unearned romance. I get the feeling it would’ve worked as an internet short, where the boring and obvious exposition could be implied between gags about the hyper-fast de-evolution of the supposedly civilized pencil pushers.
Welcome to the Jungle was shot using Red Epic digital HD cameras and is presented here in 2.35:1, 1080p video. It’s a soft film overall with glowing highlights, shallow focus, and plush colour blends. Details are complex, especially in the deeper-set, wide-angle shots of jungle and beach exteriors, and fine textures remain tight, despite their glowy qualities. The darkest sequences have stronger edges and perfectly deep blacks that support the important highlights without any notable edge enhancement effects. The colour schemes are divided by location, but remain relatively eclectic throughout. The office spaces are sanitized by fluorescent lighting and a teal base that is punched up by pink skin tones. The daylight jungle scenes are lush with green vegetation and feature a slightly candied yellow tone that helps facilitate the smooth, digital HD gradations. The nighttime jungle scenes are cooled by deep blues and harsher contrasts. All the hues remain strong without any major macro-blocking, banding effects, or unintentional bleeding.
Welcome to the Jungle is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. It’s a relatively lively mix, but not the most dynamic one outside of its musical influences. The jungle environments are consistently teeming with bird and bug noises and other directional/immersive influences that don’t overwhelm the simpler, incidental effects. The more boisterous highlights include a rickety airplane trip, complete with LFE-rumbling engines and rivets popping off through the rear channels, and a brief scene where Van Damme forces the characters to lead each other blindfolded through palm trees while he plays tiger noises on a boom box and sets off explosives. The volume levels are a little quieter than expected from a lossless track, but this is only noticeable during some of the dialogue sequences, specifically ones where characters are shouting over each other and the overall track is flattened. Composer Karl Preusser’s score is a super obnoxious mix of quirky comedy cues and stereotypical ‘jungle’ music, complete with tribal drums and ‘ooga booga’ vocals. The drums do give the track another source of LFE punch, though, and are the most consistently aggressive element.
The extras begin a surprisingly long behind-the-scenes featurette (59:10, HD). This is a loose series of fly-on-the-wall videos bases mostly around Van Damme’s time on the jungle location. Raw, on-set/location interviews are tossed into the mix for further insight, but these aren’t particularly informative beyond their intended EPK use. The disc also includes a deleted/extended scene reel (1:30, HD).
Welcome to the Jungle is among the most interchangeable comedies I’ve seen in some time. It’s pleasant enough to recommend to Van Damme and Kristen Schaal fans, though they should note that neither actor plays a leading role. Otherwise, the best thing I can say about it is that it’s harmless. There are worse ways to waste 95 minutes, I suppose. Image Entertainment’s Blu-ray comes fitted with a sharp picture, a mostly good DTS-HD MA soundtrack, and includes cast & crew interviews that are funnier than the movie itself (an extra in full wardrobe takes a pee behind Schaal’s shoulder during her interview, seemingly without noticing the camera).
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 25th March 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; DTS 5.1 French, Spanish, Italian, and Thai
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Cantonese, Thai, and Traditional Mandarin Subtitles
Extras: Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes, UltraViolet Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Rob Meltzer
Cast: Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kristen Schaal, Megan Boone
Length: 95 minutes
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