|Posted by Nick Spake on December 9, 2016 at 11:30 AM|
“Office Christmas Party” has all the ingredients for a classic holiday comedy. The setup invites numerous potentially humorous scenarios and the cast is universally excellent. Alas, the movie never turns into a laugh riot, although there are big laughs spread throughout. For a film that had so many comedic possibilities practically giftwrapped, “Office Christmas Party” is somewhat disappointing. With that said, it’s hard to dismiss the film entirely when certain moments do hit bull’s-eyes. It also helps that “Bad Santa 2” set the bar so low just a couple weeks ago.
T. J. Miller plays Clay Vanstone, a rowdy screw-up who manages a branch of his late father’s business. Jennifer Aniston is delightfully pessimistic as Carol, Clay’s older sister and the company CEO. With the demeanor of Ebenezer Scrooge, Carol tells her brother that he needs to lay off 40% of his employees and cancel all Christmas bonuses. On top of that, the whole office is on the verge of being shut down. The only person who might be able to save the branch is a potential client named Walter Davis, played Courtney B. Vance of “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” Along with Jason Bateman’s Josh and Olivia Munn’s Tracey, Clay sets out to put on an epic Christmas party to win Walter over. As you can imagine, things quickly escalate out of hand.
The biggest problem with “Office Christmas Party” is that it often treads on familiar territory. We’ve seen countless other raunchy holiday movies like this, such as “The Night Before,” “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas,” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The filmmakers borrow one too many pages from those films without really adding anything very original. On top of that, the film also clearly drew inspiration from “The Hangover,” “Sisters,” and “The Office.” Then again, nobody is going to see this movie expecting anything revolutionary. The target audience is probably just looking for something wacky and festive. On that basis, “Office Christmas Party” is enjoyable enough.
While a lot of the punch lines are predictable, the acting ensemble adds a great deal to the equation. Miller, Aniston, Bateman, and Munn all have wonderful chemistry together. Of course the real scene-stealer is Kate McKinnon as Mary, a human resources representative who turns out to have a bit of a wild side. We also get some funny performances from Vanessa Bayer, Rob Corddry, and Randall Park as the office co-workers. Jillian Bell particularly kills it as a pimp who can be nice one second and naughty the next. Unlike some other comedies with large ensembles, everyone is given an appropriate amount of screen time and nobody overstays their welcome.
“Office Christmas Party” is about a group of employees coming together to save a dying company. Likewise, the cast comes together here and salvages much of the movie. If you’re in search of something smarter and deeper, you can always check out “La La Land,” “Manchester by the Sea,” or any of the other award season favorites. If you’re in the mood for a lighthearted holiday comedy, though, “Office Christmas Party” fits the bill. Just keep in mind it’s kind of like a Christmas present you’ll play with for one day and then forget about by New Year’s.
3 out of 5 Stars