Office Christmas Party (2016)
Release Date: December 9th, 2016 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Josh Gordon, Will Speck Actors: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee
ffice Christmas Party” is all premise and no payoff. The concept of a festive extravaganza isn’t an incompetent foundation for an ensemble comedy, but the project forgets that such a simple setup needs far more substance to compose a feature film. The build to the titular event offers ample momentum, but fizzles shortly after the initial din of chaos, leaving substantial potential unfulfilled and unexplored. Nothing surpasses the anticipation of what atrocities might occur at the rapidly escalating holiday bash, a fault amplified by the film’s own unsubtle foreshadowing.
On the day of their modest annual holiday gathering, the employees of data storage company Zenotek receive grim news. No-nonsense interim CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) intends to force the branch, led by her inane brother Clay (T.J. Miller), to cut forty percent of the staff. Frantic for an alternative, Clay and his two trusted technical officers, Josh (Jason Bateman) and Tracey (Olivia Munn), plan to acquire a $14 million contract with Data City by wooing its boss, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). Determined to throw the biggest, wildest Christmas party ever to impress the businessman, the trio set about obtaining lights, a nativity, and an endless supply of alcohol – which quickly transforms the soiree into an orgy of sex, drugs, egg nog luges, and Christmas tree jousting.
Random conversations throughout “Office Christmas Party” offer the most comedic value. An unhinged manager’s word faux pas, a straight-laced corporate bigwig bullying a bratty youngster, and an Uber driver’s ranting observations on old-fashioned names garner sincere laughs far more than even the most deftly executed gross-out gag. In fact, none of the abundant scenes of visual vulgarities or crude dialogue benefit the overall impact of the comedy. The movie’s best moments come from unexpected comments and ludicrous insights on everyday situations, not when characters lose their pants or urinate in public. It’s as if there’s a coarse language and crude nudity quota that must be met, rather than allowing the obscenities to flow organically around the various predicaments.
Despite the film’s latter half losing steam at an astounding rate, the diverse cast of comedians manage to get their signature routines in with general success. T.J. Miller channels the absurdities he’s become known for in his roles on “Silicon Valley” and “Deadpool”; Jennifer Aniston retains the more serious nature of her turn in “Horrible Bosses”; and Kate McKinnon deviates little from the oddball eccentricities most notable in her “Ghostbusters” performance. They’re all good at their respective comedic personas, but playing it safe is both predictable and not without its disappointments. It would be unfair to expect every participant to step outside their comfort zones, but without any variation from the norm, the whole affair never rises above a handful of humorous quips.
– Joel Massie