Nancy Hower's "Memron" wants to be both a biting satire gnawing at corporate scandals and a showcase for its cast of improv comics. It fails to be either.
As you can guess from the title, "Memron" stabs at the Enron mess - here, the fictional megacorp of the title has laid off some 60,000 employees while the CEOs play golf at a minimum security prison. (The main CEO is named "Ken Clay," which, along with the title, should clue you in on the filmmakers' lack of parody prowess.) The ensuing mockumentary follows a support group for ex-employees as they bicker, whine, and then decide to start up their own business, selling clean air, ha ha. Meanwhile, after spending his couple of months in prison, Clay laments his house arrest-imposed ankle bracelet and argues with his trophy wife.
The complete lack of social satire is disappointing, making the title and set-up completely useless. This isn't about the corruption of corporate America at all; take out the first half hour, and the movie's still the same, a tired comedy about a bunch of schmucks who don't get along but try to put a business together anyway. Any bite the film tries to achieve is completely toothless. White collar fat cats playing golf in prison? It may be true, but here, the joke comes off as stale as it was during the Reagan years.
And so the rest is limp gee-aren't-coworkers-a-pain? comedy that deserves comparisons to "The Office," even though, to be fair, the film was made before the American series hit the airwaves. The set-up's the same: wacky scenario in which somebody does something really stupid work-related, mixed with aside interviews in which characters detail their point of view. But the story is a mess and the cast can't hold an improvised movie together, even for a brief 79 minutes. Despite the occasional presence of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" alum Mike McShane and underrated goofball Joey Slotnick, there's not a single spark in the comedy. Much of the ad libbing wears thin too quickly, and soon the cast members' only way out is to just start yelling at each other. "Memron" is always shrill, never funny.
"Memron" is directed by Nancy Hower from a story by Hower and Robert Stark Hickey; they have since gone on to co-create the TBS improv sitcom "10 Items or Less," which has been hailed as a lousy "Office" rip-off by way of "Reno 911!" I have not seen the series, but judging from "Memron," I think I'll pass. Hower's comedy direction in this film has one note: point the camera at people and hope they say something funny, or, barring that, hope they just start shouting. Even with such a short running time, "Memron" is a long slog, in which subtlety and smarts get replaced with desperation and obnoxiousness.
Video & Audio
Shot on digital video, "Memron" looks mediocre in its non-anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer. Indoor shots are clear enough, but many outdoor shots reveal a high level of graininess. Artifacting is all too present in a few random shots, possibly a problem with the source video and not the transfer.
The soundtrack comes off fine in Dolby stereo. No problems with the dialogue, despite the on-the-cheap production. No subtitles are offered.
Two trailers for the movie. That's it.
"Memron" struggles to duplicate the magic of Christopher Guest mocks, but it can't even muster the hit and miss chuckles of a local improv troupe. Worse, the lack of smarts and purpose works against its intents as sharp satire. Skip It.