A star-studded comedy that’s only as funny as the sum of its parts.
Hey you, the one reading a film review, YOU probably don’t NEED to see Office Christmas Party. No one needs to, unless you are somehow a superfan of T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon or Jason Bateman… nevermind about Jason Bateman. Nothing in my power will let me recommend anyone see Office Christmas Party, it’s not worth the energy. But I can say I actually had a good time with it, which was a pleasant surprise for this type of movie.
The movie fits the premise. It is a convoluted excuse to get wild and laugh. Josh is the most Jason Bateman-ass Jason Bateman character who, just having gone through a divorce in order to apparently fall in love with hacker chick Tracey (Olivia Munn), needs to save his office from going under for the holidays. The complications are his incompetent, but lovable (duh), boss Clay (T.J. Miller) and his wicked witch of a sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) who as C.E.O of their deceased father’s company is ready to shut them the hell down. She almost cancels the Christmas party. Clearly she is the Grinch to Clay’s Santa Clause – unfortunately we don’t get to see Aniston in a Grinch costume.
A good deal of what works in the favor of Office Christmas Party is just how many funny people they’ve managed to cram into such a small space. Kate McKinnon as an uptight HR rep (with a naughty side, as it turns out) has some of the funniest one-liners of the whole party. Jillian Bell plays an emotional unstable pimp. Her performance justifies what is an other cringe-worthy side story that works its way into the overarching plot in some (slightly) clever ways. Some characters can barely be considered a character, like Meghan (Jamie Chung) who is used as the butt of an early joke and kept around for approximately zero more attempts at a laugh.
It is the wild inconsistency of the subplots and jokes that makes Office Christmas Party the sloppy, fun mess it is. It’s 2016 and nerds hiring prostitutes isn’t okay, nor is it funny anymore, even if it is done on an iPhone app. Yet, T.J. Miller as a born-rich oaf works. Rob Corddry’s angry customer service role isn’t nearly as funny as it sounds, and it doesn’t sound that funny in the first place. Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn’s romance is hardly believable. But then you have Aniston landing some killer lines, especially in one scene where she is victim to Cinnabon theft at the hands of a child.
While none of it feels especially fresh, the first half adds plot and character at an entertaining rate. So for everything you may cringe at, you are bound to laugh sometime in the next five minutes. The second half gets weighed down by how much plot it has to wrap up and how much bull***t tech problems Tracey has to fix, an issue I’m sure Munn, previous host of Attack of the Show, had some major issues with.
Problems with the final 30 minutes aside, I still left the theater smiling for some odd reason. I don’t know if it was my admiration for the casting, which in the end was done quite well. I’m not sure if the prospect of getting wasted before returning home for the holidays appealed to me at this especially stressful time. I can’t even tell you if the fact that there is a typical, rushed happy ending is such amazing wish fulfillment right now, that I needed to see it on screen to even begin to believe it’s a possibility. That is the charm of Office Christmas Party, I suppose. Like the patrons of Santa Con in New York City, it is not always well intentioned, but it will probably make you feel better and get you in the holiday spirit, even if you don’t think you need the aide of holiday spirits.
Office Christmas Party comes to theaters on December 9th.