Monday, September 16, 2019

Corporate Animals: Demi Moore is the Boss

Is there anything worse than team-building exercises? Sure, cannibalism and getting trapped in confined spaces are bad too, but faux empowerment really takes the cake. Unfortunately, the employees of Incredible Edibles will have to endure all these things, plus their boss’s usual bullying in Patrick Brice’s Corporate Animals, which opens this Friday in New York.

Lucy Vanderton’s mean streak is only surpassed by her vanity. She really believes all her dressing-down sessions are for her employees’ own good—not that she cares about them. Regrettably, her business acumen is not as considerable. With rumors of insolvency swirling around the company, she packs up her staff for a mandatory outward bound-style outing. It gives her the opportunity to preen and show off her calculated wokeness, but her survival skills are not that hot either.

Of course, Vanderton insists they all engage in some high-risk spelunking, but when their guide dies through misadventure, they are trapped without food—and nobody will come looking for them anytime soon. Things get ugly as workplace resentments boil over. Before long, they must resort to Donner Party tactics to survive.

There are no revelations in Corporate Animals, but Brice and screenwriter Sam Bain keep it consistently brisk and amusing. There is no doubt Demi Moore is the film’s no-to-secret weapon shamelessly chewing the scenery as Vanderton. It is a claws-out, all-in performance that has no use for subtlety, but it is very funny.

The supporting cast get their digs in as well, particularly Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Dan Bakkedahl as the kind of employees who just radiate discontent. Jessica Williams and Karan Soni develop some nice rapport as Jess and Freddie, the two supposed protégés, whom Vanderton has been playing-off against themselves. Jennifer Kim (so memorable in Female Pervert) again shows off her remarkable facility for dead-pan humor, but she really should have had more screen time. Likewise, Ed Helms’ necessarily brief appearance as Brandon, the ill-fated guide, was probably considered a gag in its own right.

The laughs in Corporate mostly constitute dark comedy, but the cannibalism business never approaches the in-your-face discomfort of Raw. It really functions better as a zeitgeisty Serial-style satire than a horror or midnight movie. In fact, a high percentage of the jokes lampooning self-helpy business-and-success double talk land on target (Jonathan Swift might approve). Recommended for rude laughs, Corporate Animals opens this Friday (9/20) in New York, at the Village East.