This party is less than the sum of its party-goers.
Office Christmas Party must’ve been conceived when the six writers credited with the story and screenplay (red flag!) compiled a list of “Crazy sh-t that can happen at a Christmas Party!” Unfortunately, they then attempted to create a plot to surround the list of items in order to package all of it into a film. A better idea would’ve been to integrate the items directly into the story — like, say, having the main characters do these crazy things in order to advance the story. Nope. Thus, Office Christmas Party is a raunchy, foul-mouthed, sometimes funny holiday R-rated comedy that doesn’t fully utilize the amazing comedic chops of its extensive cast. It fights for laughs and prefers to show us an assortment of inconsequential montages of crazy party antics. They’re fun, but not funny. There’s just enough charisma from a few of the cast members to make Office Christmas Party worth attending. Just barely, though.
Office Christmas Party kicks into low gear when hard-nosed and uptight CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down a company branch run by her buffoonish, immature brother Clay Vanstone (TJ Miller), he enlists the help of the Chief Technical Officer, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), and Developer Lead Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) to throw an insanely awesome office Christmas party in the hopes of swooning a deal with a big potential client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) and proving to Carol that the branch is successful enough not to shut down. Weren’t you incredibly bored by that synopsis? Me too, but it’s a great launching point and a strong plot device. As you’d expect, the party gets way out of hand and just when things are getting more fun for the viewer, the film spins far away from the expected plot paths onto a random disappointing tangent to reconcile Carol and Clay with each other and their friends. Boo!
TJ Miller is in classic TJ Miller form, and Kate McKinnon, who plays a creepy and strict Human Resources manager, are the all-stars of Office Christmas Party. Miller’s sarcastic random-thought delivery and McKinnon’s crazed glances and purposefully restrained demeanor steal each scene their in, saving us from the doldrums of the irrelevant romantic subplot between Bateman and Munn. The remaining cast is full of SNL and TV comedy veterans, yet the best the writers can come up with are quickly fleeting moments and short vignettes stuck in simply to give us a break from the main (less engaging) storyline, which by the way, also features some ludicrous technological breakthroughs and a dismal excuse for tech jargon. The point is, Office Christmas Party induces a handful of laughs, for sure, but really missed the mark by placing too much emphasis on stuff going on outside the party, rather than building it all within. Plus, there’s the sexist aspect to the film that’s hard to gloss over. They do a commendable job showing a wide assortment of female characters throughout the film (applause) but each of the main female characters gets taught a lesson by their male counterpart/romantic interest. Thank you, men, for showing them the way (applause). Also, why are we made to hate the uptight all-business ethics of Jennifer Aniston’s character, but be okay with the uptight all-business ethics of Courtney B. Vance’s character? TJ Miller is a stubborn idiot around Aniston and a pleading business man around Vance, and so we’re provided an unfair comparison to influence our judgement. Again, boo!
Before I finish up, I want to give a quick shout out to the Office Christmas Party soundtrack, which accounts for some of the film’s best moments. It’s a shame though that the film couldn’t live up to crude holiday comedy of last year, The Night Before, which blended adult-themed shenanigans with some charmingly heartfelt Christmas spirit. There’s next-to-no Christmas spirit in this film. Office Christmas Party is high on visual gags but low on substance. Plenty of substance abuse, though. Ba-zing!
Office Christmas Party comes out in theaters Friday, Dec. 9th.