Office Christmas Party (2016)
Party like your job depends on it
I don’t know, maybe it’s my affinity for the ho-ho holiday season, the unfolding tension of a party that’s about to explode or simply just the sight of Olivia Munn that jingled my bell. Either way, I actually enjoyed this utterly disposable Yuletide yarn. Sure, Office Christmas Party has too many side plots (and throwaway characters), and follows the same trajectory we’ve seen countless times before, but this boisterously fun guilty pleasure does its job — and that is, supply folks with a well-earned Christmas distraction, particularly after fighting through the hordes of masses whilst shopping for gifts!
Set in and around a corporation named Zenotek — where morale is at an all-time low — our story kicks into gear when the company’s Scrooge-like CEO, Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston), barges into the building and announces that she’s planning to shut their underperforming Chicago branch down. With the imminent threat of layoffs and downsizing, Carol’s kid brother and clueless branch president, Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), enlists the aid of his recently divorced chief technical officer, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), along with that of his lead systems engineer, Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn), to help him land a high profile client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), and save the division that he inherited from his father. However, when the meeting doesn’t go as planned, the trio invite Davis to their ‘non-denominational holiday mixer’ or ‘Christmas party’ (which Carol thinks she’s cancelled) to gain his trust, show him a good time and ultimately win him over. Of course, everything that can go wrong does (think booze, drugs, prostitutes and the promise of bonuses), with the party spiraling to out-of-control proportions.
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck — the guys who brought us Blades of Glory (2007) — Office Christmas Party isn’t as funny nor as ‘wild’ as it wants to be, screenwriters Justin Malen, Laura Solon and Dan Mazer, Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016), throwing as many gift-wrapped goodies at the screen as humanly possible — that’s counting a handful of jokes that don’t really land (since when was dressing up in a sumo-snowman fat suit considered a thing?), an unconvincing romantic subplot between Bateman and Munn and a save-the-day finale that’s beyond far-fetched, even by comedy movie standards — the flick finishing on a forced note of sentimentality. That said, Office Christmas Party coasts by thanks to its super breezy mood and its talented cluster of comedians, a montage of the Project X-type rager perhaps hinting at a better picture in amongst the wreckage — we see employees photocopying their genitals, a guy dressed as Jesus (Daniel Jackson) riding gallantly through the chaos and a pissed-off security guard (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who threatens to taser anyone caught looting office supplies.
Heading the ensemble is Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses (2011), who portrays Josh, the archetypal every-man type character he’s played like a dozen times before. Thankfully his co-star, T.J. Miller, Deadpool (2016), livens proceedings as the hard-partying branch manager with a heart of gold, Clay, Miller’s amenable screen presence bringing the jolly man-child to the fore. Jennifer Aniston, We’re the Millers (2013), gets her tinsel in a tangle as Clay’s grinchy sister Carol — she does, however, have one ripper scene where she swears at a kid in an airport lounge (more of that please) — while breakout star Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters (2016), generates a majority of the heartiest ho-ho-ho’s as spoil-sport Mary, Zenotek’s tightly wound head of human resources, the 32-year-old comedian sleighing some of the flick’s more ho-hum gags, including a recurring fart joke and an ‘ugly Christmas sweater’ quip.
In terms of support cast, Office Christmas Party has more secondary players than Santa has names on his naughty list. Karan Soni — aka, the scene stealing cab driver, Dopinder, from Deadpool (2016) — is by far the most memorable, the Indian-American stepping into the stockings of Nate, the company’s bullied head of I.T.; the said hiring a steamy escort, Savannah (the smokin’ hot Abbey Lee), to pose as his girlfriend in order to impress his sneering colleagues, this paving way for a pimp subplot that sees actress Jillian Bell repeat the same nice-then-nasty routine we saw her execute in 22 Jump Street (2014) — this whole detour given way too much attention. Rob Corddry, Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), is kinda wasted as workplace whiner Jeremy, whilst Vanessa Bayer, Trainwreck (2015), is as bouncy as a Christmas bobble, rendering Clay’s good-natured, foul-mouthed assistant, Allison, who thinks she may have found the perfect rebound secret Santa in Fred from accounting (Randall Park). Last but not least, comic Fortune Feimster, has a few amusing moments as Lonny, a nutty Uber driver we bump into at various points throughout the night.
Relying too heavily on lackluster improv and worn-out movie references (yep, even the Iron Throne makes an unneeded appearance), Office Christmas Party should’ve blown the roof sky high. To talk turkey, what we have here is a slightly above average stocking stuffer, one that maintains a certain level of enjoyment without ever going above and beyond. Let’s just say, that after watching Office Christmas Party, one will never look at gooey eggnog the same way again!
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie