At the first job I ever worked, a coffee shop, there was an annual Christmas party put on by the owner. All the workers would eat well and get inebriated, sometimes – most times – egregiously so. Relationships started and relationships ended on those winter evenings, and sometimes the boundaries of taste and decency were pushed just a bit. So from personal experience I can attest to the appeal of the new comedy Office Christmas Party. Working in close quarters over the year, crushes are formed and grievances created. Inject a bit of alcohol into the situation and things could get really interesting from a comedic perspective. There’s plenty of debauchery in the movie from the filmmaking duo of Josh Gordon and Will Speck, but there are scant laughs in this rambunctious, overstuffed piece of boilerplate comedy that only seems to confirm that whatever software the studios are employing to create the scenarios for its comedies is grievously malfunctioning.
The basic premise of Office Christmas Party centers on the holiday party placed by Zenotek, a company dealing in computer servers. This is a multi-national company that has remained in the control of the Vanstone family. Clay (T.J. Miller) has been a party boy throughout his life and was the object of affection for his late father while his sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) worked hard to earn the power and respect en route to her position as CEO. Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) is a recently divorced (the movie opens with him signing his divorce papers) Chief Technology Officer for the Chicago office of Zenotek. He has a cozy relationship with Clay as well as the company’s best developer and object of his infatuation, Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn). As CEO, Carol is planning on shutting down the Chicago offices of Zenotek due to the fact the office is slightly less profitable than planned, and Carol really resents her brother. The only option for Clay, Josh, and Tracey is to convince Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) to take a contact with the company and save the Chicago branch from closure.
That ridiculous setup doesn’t even begin to get into the multiple subplots of minor characters that make up a majority of Office Christmas Party’s excessive running time of 105 minutes. There are so many that it would an exercise in futility to examine how and why they factor into the film’s increasingly stupid plot. Just know that Office Christmas Party squanders the talents of Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, and many other talented supporting players in what feels like a never-ending redundant joke of increasing inanity.
With six credited screenwriters (story by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, and Timothy Dowling and screenplay by Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer), it’s truly amazing that the movie is unable to craft one genuine character. This is one of those movies where everyone declares each of their characteristics, ensuring that subtlety is as useful as pissing in the wind. Because studio comedies have lost their teeth, Office Christmas Party concludes by trying to soften each aspect of bad behavior, a ludicrous happy ending for all. It’s honestly maddening to witness another comedy that wants to wrap all excessive behavior up with neat little bow – not just in terms of behavior but the fact that some people are just assholes who aren’t going to have their moment of redemption in the midst of some hedonistic party.
Most of the headlining cast of Office Christmas Party are just rehashing the successful character archetypes they’ve used in television. Patrick Bateman is remarkably similar to Michael Bluth the same way T.J. Miller is just rehashing Erlich Bachman. Once again, Olivia Munn is recast as the not-convincing-romantic-interest. (She may be a talented actress frequently miscast.) Jennifer Aniston plays against type as a merciless capitalist for much of the film, but the movie demands that she finds redemption at the end for no reason at all. There’s no greater rule (there isn’t) in comedy than the oppressor getting in on the joke at the end. It’s always hilarious. (It isn’t.)
Office Christmas Party
Despite a robust roster of comedic talent, Office Christmas Party is as unimaginative as its title; yeah, it’s that bad.