Death of the Critic

Why Did I Watch That? - Welcome to the Jungle

Written by: Tom Blaich


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.
Comedies can ride a fine line between good and bad. You can give the same script to two different groups and get one project that is hilarious, and one that is actively unfunny. Sometimes jokes just work. Maybe it is the charisma of the cast, or the strength of the director, or even the writing. Some movies can be hilarious, but sometimes they aren't. Sometimes jokes just keep falling flat. Welcome to the Jungle sits in a weird place for me because there are a few funny moments, but a lot of the jokes simply don't do anything, miring the movie down in an unfunny pile of poo. It is a cinematic train wreck, and somehow I couldn’t stop watching.

The film follows a young man who works at an advertising agency with dreams of grandeur. He has an asshole superior who likes to take credit for his amazing work, a stoner friend who is dragging him down, and a massive crush on a pretty woman who he somehow hasn't creeped out yet by being really, really weird. After his superior takes credit for an amazing idea, the agency's boss decides to send the entire office (besides him) on a team building/leadership retreat to a remote tropical island, lead of course by John-Claude van Damme.


I have a soft spot for JCVD. Let's face it, Timecop was a masterpiece, and the man is great at kicking people in the face. Bloodsport is practically a work of art in all of its cheesy martial arts action. But unfortunately for us, and for the world at large, Monsieur Van Damme is not only a has-been, but is a "never-will-be-again", and he fulfills that prophecy by being truly awful in this movie. His character is supposed to be funny because he is so over the top and ridiculous. And, oh yeah, his accent is hilarious because he's hard to understand.

The group gets into trouble after JCVD is KO'd by a tiger in a painfully long scene where he is repeatedly mauled by the fakest tiger this side of Casa de Mi Padre. So now they are stranded on the island and must survive on the own. But what about the pilot of the plane that flew them there, you might ask. Oh he's dead for some reason, which we discover after we watch the main character piss on the face of his corpse.

The cast of characters is as dumb as they are cliche, with just a sprinkling of character growth that attempts to redeem them in the eyes of the audience. His stoner friend that no one should like because he is such an asshole? Yeah he makes up with his girlfriend, who just happens to be super prim and proper, because opposites attract, obviously. The awkward and nerdy main character turns out to be not only an expert hang glider, but also an experienced survivalist who is vital to making sure everyone survive and he gets the girl. The bad guy will lose, of course, and everyone else lives happily ever after.

The problem with this movie isn't only that it’s not funny, but that it feels mean as well. Lot's of jokes about rape, spying on undressing women to titillate the short attention span of the audience, with some casual racism, sexism, and homophobia tossed in for diversity. It reeks of unoriginality and feels lazy, like it was catering to the lowest common denominator. There weren't well written jokes, just “edgy” jokes that just fall flat.


With all that being said, there was one part of this film that I kind of actually liked. Rob Huebel is one of those people who is just funny in basically whatever he is in. No matter how terrible the lines, or script, or directing, his natural comedic charisma manages to shine through. He plays an unrepentant, power-hungry, racist, womanizing, all-around piece of shit. He brings a certain sense of ridiculousness to the role which keeps the character from becoming too despicable. It feels like he is constantly winking at you over how terrible the movie is.

But if I wanted to watch a Rob Huebel movie, I would watch literally any other Rob Huebel movie. I was seduced by a thumbnail of a washed-up, splits-doing, martial artist, but I was lied to. I don't know exactly what I wanted, but it sure as hell wasn't this. At least I can be consoled by the fact that one person got sand thrown in their eyes, and that is sticking to the best of the Jean-Claude Van Damme filmography.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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