Movie Review: “Corporate Animals”

More than anything else, the new film “Corporate Animals” resembles a particularly off-kilter episode of “The Office.”  Directed by Patrick Brice with a script from Sam Bain the movie sees a dysfunctional CEO, Lucy (Demi Moore), bringing her peculiar group of employees on a company retreat to New Mexico.  Things do not go well.

Everything about this movie, from Brice’s direction, to the main set, to the brand of humor, gives the movie a distinctly sitcom feel, although it would most definitely be a final episode.  This isn’t a statement made to denigrate the movie in any way – “The Office” is a great television show (both in its UK and US forms), one that is filled with tremendous characters and some truly funny jokes.

As this particular story plays out, due to Lucy’s delusional belief that she can motivate her team to do anything (in reality she is a terrible boss), she convinces the professional guide (Ed Helms) that rather than hiking a simple route to their destination, they’ll do an advanced one through caves.  Naturally, they get trapped.

The majority of “Corporate Animals” then unfolds as members of the team—played by actors including Jessica Williams, Karan Soni, Calum Worthy, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Martha Kelly, Jennifer Kim, Nasim Pedrad, and Dan Bakkedahl—try to maintain a level of sanity.  That goes better for some than for others.

There is nothing that is particularly new or different or even unexpected about “Corporate Animals,” save maybe one animated sequence.  There are discussions about escape, food, sex, water, and truths about the company for which they work.  The script takes the easy path with Lucy, making her a nearly irredeemable, wholly oblivious, boss.  She is Michael Scott but rather less likable and with more power as she is a CEO and not a regular manager.

Few of the other characters are as clearly defined, save Williams’ Jess and Soni’s Freddie.  These two are Lucy’s assistants and both know various bits of information which Lucy has parceled out to them.  They are also, as much as anyone, the center of the film and able to draw the audience in to the clearly horrific corporate world Lucy has created.

Although there is regularly a sense that jokes are not quite as uproarious as they might be, the movie succeeds as much as it does due to the commitment of the cast.  These are very funny people who play well off of one another.  They take the wholly relatable corporate retreat for an awful company notion and help up the ante to the absurd.

Running less than 90 minutes, “Corporate Animals” doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is particularly beneficial in a movie like this where the group is, by and large, stuck in a single space for the vast majority of the film’s length.  It also cannot make one stop wondering what the characters from [insert your favorite workplace comedy] would do in a similar situation.  This reviewer would happily watch a reunion episode of “The Office” where Michael Scott convinced his former employees to get together for one last shebang and took them caving.

In case it is not already clear, “Corporate Animals” isn’t particularly memorable, but it’s a light and airy enough way to spend an hour and a half.

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photo credit:  Sundance Institute/Screen Media

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