Corporate Animals is aggressively heartless, as if it’s in a competition to be the cruelest dark comedy. But in doing so, the film sacrifices itself and proves to audiences just how two-dimensional it really is.
Co-workers of a startup company face the ultimate team building exercise when their outdoorsy retreat turns into a fight for survival when they become trapped underground. Their leader Lucy (Demi Moore) is fearless but callous, the go-to assistants Jess (Jessica Williams) and Freddie (Karan Soni) are loyal but exhausted, while other employees (Calum Worthy, Nasim Pedrad, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Dan Bakkedahl among others) are either ignorant or straight-up angry at life – and, this is before they all get buried alive. Once dehydration and starvation come into play, the pessimism and arrogance of these characters is amplified through drawn-out discussions about possible escapes and when they should resort to cannibalism, along with other tacky confrontations that surface from the pressure.
The rude kicker: movie goers watching Corporate Animals will be the ones who feel trapped. The non-stop assault of insults and bickering wares on us, and searching for qualities to engage with becomes a tiring task. What makes Corporate Animals really disappointing though is the talent supporting it. The stacked cast – filled out by actors who have been funny in the past – appear defeated by the lack of material, hopelessly wishing that shouting their dialogue and enunciating their foul vocabulary will compensate. Ed Helms (who has an extended cameo as an indifferent tour guide) dealt with this brand of earnest, sarcastic workplace humour on NBC’s long-running adaptation of The Office but, as one of the film’s producers, he fails to bring any guidance to this project. Cedar Rapids, a lightweight flick that Helms was the star of and executive produced, is a better workplace comedy than Corporate Animals.
The biggest surprise of Corporate Animals is that it was directed by Patrick Brice, the insanely clever filmmaker behind The Overnight and Blumhouse’s Creep series. Like Helms, Brice knows his way around this cut of confrontational, cringe comedy, and he knows how to structure awkward chats to generate genuine reactions. Corporate Animals features the director trying to challenge himself with a broader premise, which I admire. But, sometimes broad comedies can morph into a shallow project once completed, which is exactly what happens with Corporate Animals. It naturally digs its own grave.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie