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How do self-absorbed advertising execs handle disaster and deprivation? Unbelievably, apparently.

1 out of 4 stars


Eating Buccaneers

  • Written and directed by Bill Keener
  • Starring Shannon Beckner, Peter Keleghan, Steven McCarthy, Leah Pinsent and Jeff White
  • Classification: 14A

An ensemble comedy about the advertising business, Eating Buccaneers is a feature film debut of the real-life Toronto-based advertising creative director, Bill Keener, who arranged for the film to be privately financed and shot it near his home. The title is catchy and the concept of a real-life corporate team-building exercise is promising satirical material. But Eating Buccaneers never finds a convincing tone or direction - it feels less like a satire than a rudimentary sitcom in search of a laugh-track.

The opening scene sets the tone as well-dressed Andrea (Shannon Beckner) walks through the woods and stops to vomit. In a few minutes, we meet her boss, Jerry ( The Newsroom 's Peter Keleghan), who seems to have sent the group to look out for signs of life after the small plane they've been travelling in has crashed in a forest.

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For people who have just survived a near-death experience (not to mention the apparent death of their pilot), they are improbably chipper. In particular, copywriter Doug (Jeff White) seems to have crawled from the wreckage in full wisenheimer mode. He jokes about seeing a resort nearby, he begins miming a chimp while picking burrs off the dress of yoga-obsessed Vanessa (Leah Pinsent), and then talks about cannibalism to the upright client, Stewart (Steven McCarthy). The cannibalism jokes are repeated, along with ha-ha references to constipation, menstruation and the rash on Vanessa's backside.

With only their story boards as protection (the movie's best visual gag) and a sample box of the titular Buccaneer chocolate bars for sustenance, the stranded yuppies bicker, joke around and stick closely to their single-trait characters.

As one day in the forest slides into the next, the camera wheels through the trees and the characters become more antic. As they fall down, wave their arms and make inarticulate noises, the prospect of the audience getting rescued from this misfiring farce grows increasingly remote.

There are a few laughs at the industry's expense ("Nobody's going to search for us." "Why not?" "We're in advertising."). But there's little here that seems fixed in observed human behaviour. By the time the characters step out of their ego shells to confess their ambitions, unhappy affairs and bad parenting skills, they're asking for sympathy that's already been squandered. The script would make more psychological sense if the characters had vowed to change their lives after the plane crash before slipping back into their habitual self-absorption.

The actors work energetically to sell the material, but no one comes up smelling pine-fresh here. As the series of telegraphed revelations and blustery confrontations unfold, you can't help wishing for the stock response to an annoying advertising pitch: A mute button to press.

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