Office Christmas Party, 2016.
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck.
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Vanessa Bayer, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Rob Corddry, Abbey Lee, Kate McKinnon, Karan Soni, and Matt Walsh.
When the CEO (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close her hard-partying brother’s branch, he (T.J. Miller) and his Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs.
The drunken tomfoolery depicted in Office Christmas Party is an environment that would be more engaging to be around than to watch play out on a screen. In a similar manner, I imagine the stacked cast full of notable comedic names (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller, the list goes on) had more chaotic fun making the movie together than most people will have watching it. It’s like when you and your drunk friends start showing the world a video of some insane shenanigans you got into in an alcohol-induced party frenzy, and then they just give you a blank stare signaling that whatever you’re showing them isn’t very humorous. You just had to be there to understand.
That’s not to say Office Christmas Party (directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck of Blades of Glory fame) is a terrible movie or the worst comedy of the year, but that it just doesn’t quite come together as a piece of entertainment that delivers belly laughs by the minute. Instead of connecting to the numerous characters and subplots spread throughout the movie, the most fun I had was simply from observing the scenery of the Christmas tricked out office building. At one point a character is sitting on a replica Iron Throne from Game of Thrones, and well, now I think any good party requires one of those. You can only imagine what other nonsense can be spotted throughout the rest of the movie.
As for the numerous aforementioned characters, it’s possibly the extreme level of detachment felt from their struggles that halted the proceedings from coming across as jolly old fun to invest in. The core of the story is fine, centered on a sibling rivalry between T.J. Miller and Jennifer Aniston’s characters bickering over having the eponymous Christmas party and other gloomy subjects for the holidays, such as laying off 40% of Clay’s (T.J. Miller) branch. Based on some of her past roles, you can probably guess that Jennifer Aniston plays a cold-hearted bitch, and you would be right. She’s perfect at it, and her absolutely heartless moment alongside a child that steals her Cinnabon is the highlight of the film, both the joke. and the karma-inspired punchline.
There are other little side-story distractions involving Karan Soni hiring an escort to act as his girlfriend for the night (he tells all of his coworkers that he is dating a model), which leads to Jillian Bell showing up as a gangster pimp. Furthermore, her energy and mentally unstable psychotic impulses make her the most memorable character in the movie alongside the most fun to watch. If there is a spinoff that comes from Office Christmas Party it needs to be about her as a prostitute ringleader.
However, everything else (and trust me, there are a ton of characters I haven’t even glossed over yet) falls flat both in humor and emotional attachment. Jason Bateman plays a divorcee lacking in Christmas spirit yet is also getting smitten with office hottie played by Olivia Munn, and I suppose we are meant to hope they get together by the end, but in reality, it’s hard to muster up a care to give when the characters are so paper-thin. Admittedly, it has to be this way, otherwise. it would be a three-hour comedy which no one would want either. The point is that levels of engagement to Office Christmas Party shift all over the place depending who is on screen.
Also, for whatever reason the story decides to leave the party, embarking on a strange car chase that leads to one of the most ridiculous and unbelievable plot points ever, even for a decidedly silly comedy of this nature. It is so out of place that the entire third act feels awful in comparison to everything else, which is always at the very least moderately entertaining containing laughs here and there. Office Christmas Party may not be the best raunchy bash you’ll ever attend, but the amount of star-power and shenanigans on display will make the visit somewhat worthwhile. If nothing else, it’s another step forward for T.J. Miller who is really finding a groove in his comedic presence lately.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★