Starring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, TJ Miller
Director: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Running Time: 106 mins
Synopsis: When a C.E.O of a major tech company (Aniston) elects to close down the branch run by her brother (Miller) just before Christmas, he and his lead technical manager (Bateman) attempt to woo a major client with a HUGE Christmas Party, thus saving the business and everyone’s job. What could possibly go wrong?
Christmas comes but once a year, and alas so does a comedy like this one. A mash-up of the usual Xmas laugh-fest and the hugely popular lewd party comedy, in the vein of Superbad, Project X, etc. We had one last year with The Night Before, and now we have this years contender. Graced with a likeable cast, Office Christmas Party does not start in the most promising way. Jason Bateman (dryly witty and appealing as ever) is Josh Parker who is signing his divorce papers a few days before the holidays, I know joyful stuff, and comes to work with the prospect of losing his job too. Even though his boss Clay, a winningly laid back TJ Miller, wants to do all he can to save these peoples jobs, he is fighting a losing battle against his vicious and bitchy sister who owns the company. A delightfully wicked and playful Jennifer Aniston is clearly relishing being another Horrible Boss, following her role in that film and its sequel, also directed by the duo of Speck/Gordon. They attempt to save the branch by wooing a big customer, played by Courtney B. Vance, with a giant party. A buttoned up rigid guy who, to the surprise of no one, certainly knows how to cut loose, especially when a blast of cocaine to the face awakens it inside of him. Vance is one of the highpoints of the film, clearly loving the opportunity to go a little bit nuts.
In order to create the party to end all parties, Josh and Clay need to use all the members of the team to ensure the plan goes down without a hitch, and as per the usual with these sort of comedies, and especially ones set in this sort of environment, this team is made up of some oddballs. Best of the bunch is the always reliable Kate McKinnon as Mary, the resident HR ball breaker. Strict adherence to the rules, and a strange tendency to farting repeatedly, gives way to a wilder side as the night goes on. McKinnon is supremely gifted when it comes to giving even the simplest of lines an unusual and unexpected delivery. Olivia Munn once again plays into her nerdy hotness to moderately funny effect, but suffers from the hit and miss script. In fact the whole cast try their best with some pretty flimsy material. It hits familiar beats such as a late act spin into action, or the usual hookers and orgy madness, but can’t quite find enough clever or witty things to say to justify the cliches. Strangely for a film so wrapped up in being hedonistic and crazy, it all feels a little tame. A bit of boob here, some 3D printed cock there, with the only real outrageous moment involving egg nog and a ice-sculptured penis delivery system. Speck/Gordon repeat the trick of Horrible Bosses of thinking a bit of swearing and some sex make for a wild experience. It does not!!
Office Christmas Party is refreshing in that it doesn’t ram home any sort of Xmas message about love and all that malarkey, opting to find its heart in the caring nature of TJ Miller’s boss towards his staff. No one learns any lessons, even Aniston’s harsh boss only marginally becomes a better person. It is a nice touch to mark this out as a little different to the stock Christmas comedy. Sadly it just isn’t quite enough to help this film stick in the mind. Too often the film falls flat, aided considerably by the hideously thin plot. A final act plot point involves a new piece of technology the company is working on and serves only to wrap things up neatly, delivered as it is by some heavily laboured Olivia Munn computer whizz exposition. Thankfully the movie moves quickly and is entertaining enough to cover over these flaws, but it can’t help feeling like an actual Christmas Party; fun while it lasts, not particularly well put together and leaving you with a feeling that you may not remember any of it come the morning.
Verdict: A likeable, game cast and some solid laughs keep the film moving along at a decent pace but a paper light plot and an unwillingness to really go wild keeps Office Christmas Party from being a night to remember.