When the employees of Incredible Edibles a comestible silverware start up get trapped in a cave during a team building retreat it doesn’t take long for these environmentalists to consider cannibalism. Patrick Brice’s “Corporate Animals” is a thin satire on the dog eat dog make that man eat man selfishness of modern capitalism with a deliciously nasty lead performance by Deni Moore as Lucy the hypocritical CEO. In the very funny commercial that opens the film. Lucy frames herself as the Earth Mother goddess of a company that she believes will save the planet while touting her diverse workforce of women LGBTQ individuals and people of color. But ask the employees of incredible edibles if they feel valued and they’ll blurt something the FCC wouldn’t approve.
Lucy is the boss from Hades by way of Goop a woman who uses inspirational buzzwords to browbeat her team. To her taking credit for her employees success is mentorship and when her black female assistant Jessica Williams is underwhelmed lucy orders her to find her inner Beyond. As for bullying her hirelings into rappelling into an advanced cave system that’s simply encouraging them to be their best selves or get fired.
Brice the goofball behind Creep and Creep 2 and writer Sam Bain clearly enjoyed creating this monster which Moore brings to life with brittle exacting delight. In one scene she slithers up from behind a boulder wearing a moisturizing face mask as though the villain in a no play. Moore goes after modern empowerment culture with the same energy her bad executive Meredith Johnson in disclosure brought to the mid ’90’s incomplete understanding of sexual harassment. As a society, we’ve learned a bit more since then about the different ways a boss can overpower their underlings. Still when second in command Freddie accuses Lucy of “Wittgenstein” him, the jokey shorthand suggests we haven’t come that far.
“Corporate Animals” is a character sketch in search of a plot. In the first act, fatuous guide Brandon (Ed Helms) gets the gang trapped in an underground cavern large enough for people to slink off to the bathroom or seduce each other behind a rock. Even before the first person gets filleted we’re grateful the film isn’t in Smell O Vision. Yet most of the brutality is verbal. There’s a gleeful shiver when the employees finally feel free to speak their minds. Who cares about getting fired when one employee is writing a will to clarify who gets to eat her butt cheek. Given the lack of narrative options once the group is stuck passively waiting for rescue attacking each other is the only way to pass the time.
Deni Moore, Ed Helms, Jessica Williams, Karan Soni, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Calum Worthy.