The Rock's short cinematic career seems to have been improving as time progresses, starting off with the trashy Mummy films and their spin-offs and then moving on to more decent fare like DOOM and WALKING TALL. WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE falls somewhere between these films and boasts a good, serious performance from the former wrestler, playing a bounty hunter and chef who, unsurprisingly enough, ends up whupping the ass of just about all the bad guys in the movie. Unfortunately, aside from The Rock, this is a very silly film and undemanding film that seems to be pretty much packed with childish humour. The scenes involving the monkeys, for instance, are interminable and obviously aimed at the younger demographic.
Another low point of the film is Seann William Scott's turn as co-star. I was just warming to Scott after his turn in American PIE: THE WEDDING (where he was by far the best thing in the film); unfortunately he takes a backwards step here and becomes the irritating bigmouth once again. Scott's shtick is quickly tiring – the dumb 'thunder and lightning' joke played for non-laughs over and over again is a good example – but it's impossible to totally blame the actor, as his part is so poorly written. On the plus side, to make up for this deficiency, we do get another kooky turn from Christopher Walken, playing yet another villain and yet another anecdotal, rambling, philosophic bad guy a la TRUE ROMANCE. Walken seems to be having a ball, and viewers will too, when he's around. Supporting actors don't fare so well. The usually dependable Ewen Bremner is saddled with an incomprehensible Scottish accent while Rosario Dawson (so tough and hard-hitting in SIN CITY) is one-dimensional as the token woman.
The problem with this flick is the plot, really. It's so clichéd – recalling other, better films like MIDNIGHT RUN – that every twist and plot device can be seen a mile off. The Rock's reluctance to use firearms is a good example; we all know he's gonna load up and shoot a load of crims at the climax, so what? Director Peter Berg only ever hits the spot when he's dealing with the action, and I'm pleased to see that the many fights and battles – while predictable – lift this film entirely. Without them, it would be worthless; with them, it's worth at least one watch. Beginning with a nightclub rumpus as The Rock takes on an American football team (film fans will also get a kick out of Schwarzenegger's "blink and you'll miss it" cameo) and moving on to car chases, massive shoot-outs, and explosions , WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE really hits home in the action stakes, although the frenzied editing is still a detraction; give me the good old days of one-shot fights (think '80s Hong Kong) anytime. Still, the mid-film showdown between The Rock and some martial arts-battling rebels, out in the jungle with vines, brutal super-punches and more, makes the film worth watching on it's own.