Sundance London 2019 Film Review – Corporate Animals (2019)

Hands up if you’ve ever been on one of those hideous Outward Bound type team building courses. If you have, then you’ll be on uncomfortably familiar ground with Corporate Animals and you’ll know what the ensemble cast assembled by director Patrick Brice are in for. Well, some of it, anyway …..

The saps working for Lucy (Demi Moore), the megalomaniac CEO of a small company making edible cutlery – yes, you read that right – are in for a weekend from hell, made all the worse by their boss. With a trek across the New Mexico desert behind them, they venture underground for a spot of caving and the inevitable disaster strikes. Without guide Brandon (Ed Helms) to help them, it’s down to the mis-matched and decidedly disgruntled group to get themselves out of trouble – any which way they can.

Brice and his writer Simon Bain (he of Peep Show fame) admit that neither of them have ever found themselves on such a course, but both felt a group of people forced together in a confined space was full of comic potential. It’s a set-up that’s produced some classics in the past but, sadly, Corporate Animals isn’t destined to be one of them. It gets off to a good enough, if perhaps simplistic, start with a mock corporate video for Lucy’s product, establishing big business as one of its satirical targets. Except it doesn’t go much further than that, swiftly turning to the internal politics, jockeying for position and shenanigans between the team members as more fertile territory for comedy. Which makes sense – up to a point.

The problem at the heart of Corporate Animals is that, although it’s a good enough idea, there simply isn’t enough in the way of substance to make a full length feature, not even one that barely scrapes a running time of 86 minutes. It becomes apparent early on, with gags providing much of the padding. The verbal ones are, in the main, the more successful – CSI:New York fans are in for a particularly special treat – but there’s also a strand of humour that’s decidedly more gruesome and wince making, as well as being wholly predictable. A group of people trapped in a cave with no food or water. You just know what’s going to happen ….. Although, if you have a taste for the grotesque, there’s one visual joke that’s easily the most memorable of the whole film.

As it moves along its already over-stretched path, the laughs fizzle out giving us the sense that Brice and Bain are running out of ideas and need to wrap things up quickly, leaving it to the cast to hold on to our attention. Demi Moore is the surprise package as the boss, savagely funny in the type of role that’s most definitely outside of her comfort zone. But the comic talents of Ed Helms are under-used and efforts to make each of the characters stand out in their own right don’t always pay off. The end result is disappointingly toothless and it’s hard not to wonder how it would have fared as a short with a smaller cast. “Probably a lot sharper” is the answer.

Corporate Animals is screened at Sundance London on Saturday, 1 June and Sunday, 2 June.

Freda Cooper | [rating=2]

Comedy, Satire | Cert: tbc | UK release date to be confirmed | Dir. Patrick Brice| Demi Moore, Ed Helms, Jessica Williams and Karan Soni.