Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ask Me a Question: Welcome To The Jungle World Premiere

The Newport Beach Film Festival is in full swing in lovely Newport Beach this weekend.  Tonight's centerpiece screening was the world premiere of Welcome to the Jungle.  You know, that little indie flick about office workers on an island?  Lord of the Flies via Office Space?  The one with 80's and 90's action-karate stud Jean-Claude Van Damme as an insane survival instructor?

Anywho, the event was held at the quaint Lido Theater on the Balboa Peninsula.  A decent sized line had formed outside with one goer brandishing a promotional hockey jersey from Sudden Death with "Van Damme" across the back.  Being the world premiere, the audience was chock full of cast and crew.  Right away I spotted Dennis Haysbert (Major League, NAVY SEALS (Michael Biehn, Charlie Sheen and Bill Paxton alert!)) and Ernie Barbarash, director of two Van Damme DTV efforts.  The theater quickly filled up but no sign of our man Van.  I ran out to get a drink of water...AND.  THERE.  HE.  WAS. in the center of a small mob answering questions about who knows what.

Organizers of the fest ordered everyone get to their seats and did the usual yada, yada, yada (thanks to staff, volunteers, event takes thousands of man hours, come to the after party...).  Director Rob Meltzer provided a quick intro and let us know that more or less the ENTIRE cast was in the audience.

Lights went down and the movie started.  Welcome to the Jungle is the story of Chris (Adam Brody, The OC), a young designer at a marketing firm who is getting bitched on by uber sleaze Phil (Rob Huebel, basically playing same role he did in I Love You Man but taken further).  Being an office environment, we get all kinds of wacky supporting characters.  There's Brenda (Kristen Schaal), the bunny loving office something who is semi-dating IT stoner Jared (Eric Edelstein).  There's HR representative and love interest, Lisa (Megan Boone) and head of the department...hmm can't think of character's name and it's not on IMDB but it's Dennis Haysbert!

The D Hays brings in team building expert and military man Storm Rothchild (it's JCVD!) to talk to the company and alert them that they'll all be going on a two day wilderness seminar to learn all the basics of life and business.  On the island, things quickly devolve as Storm is attacked by a tiger and the pilot is found dead of being old.  Phil drugs most of the office workers with hallucinogenic leaves and creates a cesspool of eating, drinking and orgies (it's depicted worse than it sounds).  Meanwhile Chris, Jared, Brenda and Lisa set up their own camp and try to figure out how to get rescued.  By the end of the flick, Chris finally stops being a pushover and takes on the megalomaniac Phil using his skills as an Eagle Scout. 

All in all, Welcome to the Jungle isn't good or bad per se, it's very formulaic with few surprises but many laughs.  It's lowbrow all the way but nothing too offensive.  Joke topics include homo eroticism, dicks, farts, sex and vaginas.  There's even a throw away titty shot early on.

The cast does a solid job starting with Brody as the affable enough leading man who we wait for to get tough and get the girl as opposed to rooting for. Haysbert gets the yuks as the stern yet weirdo-perv boss and JCVD does a nice job of playing against type and poking fun at his own image as the hyper-macho/moronic unhinged military man.  Schaal, Edelstein, Huebel and Aaron Takahashi (as Phil's office lackey) all get their time and do their bits just fine.

After the movie, at least 25 members of the cast and crew came to the front to answer a few questions.

- The island scenes were shot in Puerto Rico over 19 days.
- Adam Brody received the script with the odd preface that Van Damme, Haysbert and Schaal were attached.
- Van Damme's role was written with neither an action star or comedic actor in mind.
- Everybody loves JC, from his dynamic personality to the way he says words in English.
- Haysbert enjoys roles like these because they don't come his way very often.
- Meltzer's first short film debuted at the Newport Beach Film Festival 8 years ago so he's come full circle (Rambo reference # 113).
Props to Meltzer and his team for getting a lot on screen for I'm sure not very much money.  It was a fun night and I will definitely recommend to friends when Welcome to the Jungle hits screens in August via Universal.


  1. I wonder if this movie will come to Brazil. Does the movie or a TV show?

  2. I'm sure Van Damme's worldwide popularity will warrant a release in Brazil. It's a movie, not a TV show.

  3. quero saber quando eu poderei vêr esse filme ,pois estou anciosa,porque amo o van damme e todos seus filmes

  4. Espero muito também que seja exibido nos cinemas brasileiros.