Sundance London ’19 Review: ‘Corporate Animals’

Workplace backstabbing gets scarily literal in Patrick Brice’s comedy-horror Corporate Animals, an entertaining, if shallow, mediation on the world of corporate bullshit.

In a last minute attempt to rescue her rapidly crumbling edible cutlery business (Incredible Edibles, all insinuations clearly intended), super-controlling CEO Lucy (Demi Moore) drags her colleagues off on a team-building spelunking exercise. Among the ragtag group of reluctant teammates are Lucy’s “mentee” Jess (Jessica Williams), and the secret genius behind the project, Freddie (Karan Soni), a pair of rivals-turned-friends who quickly realise that their boss has not been entirely truthful with them. 

Demi Moore and Ed Helms in Corporate Animals (2019) © Sundance Institute

The exercise first begins to spiral out of control when Lucy demands that the team take the advanced route of the course, in an attempt to achieve her intended results as quickly as possible, a concept which rings eerily true to anyone who has ever had to deal with an impatient boss and a pressing deadline. Complete chaos, drawn from bursts of nonchalant cannibalism, unexpected lesbian drama and hallucinogenic newts follows, oddly resulting in the exact bonding which Lucy desired. 

Corporate Animals is best viewed with little to no knowledge of the plot; the twists and turns of the meandering story are second only to the belly-laugh-inducing effectiveness of its crude humour. There’s a surprising kick to this odd little tale, driven by characters who may be paper-thin, but who deliver the comedic goods all the same. On the contrary, it is the stereotypical nature of these people that makes them all the easier to laugh at, as when the humour is this dark, empathy is hardly a desired trait. The team form familiar archetypes of the most hated amongst colleagues; the inappropriate middle-aged man, the office couple, the pliant intern. As empty shells to be arranged into visual gags, the characters of Corporate Animals are more than fit for purpose, becoming canvases for jokes concerning everything from repetitive wanking motions to a sudden animated fantasy sequence.

As a dark comedy, then, Brice’s efforts are to be commended. It is difficult not to laugh at the sheer voracity and ridiculousness of the situations shown on screen – even if this laughter comes at the expense of genuine development and social commentary. For this is where Corporate Animals will fall flat for some viewers, as in the joke-a-minute havoc, meaningful ideas on capitalism and workplace norms lose their focus, turning what could have been a clever satire into more of a gross-out comedy. A few great observations shine through, particularly in the treatment of the company’s intern – a spineless hard worker whose health and wellbeing are constantly pushed to the side – but they nonetheless have to be teased out of a film more concerned with an immediate comedic response. Best suited to a fun popcorn night with a few mates, Corporate Animals will not change the world with its humour – but it may make you wonder just how bad things would have to get before you ate your colleagues.

For the rest of our Sundance London coverage, click here.

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