Someone forgot to spike the punch at this Office Christmas Party, a new festive comedy starring a lot of funny people but featuring very few laughs.
Despite an R-rating and a game roster of comics on hand the film doesn’t come close to earning its pitched status as a holiday Hangover. When Office Christmas Party hits its (admittedly few) peaks, it’s momentarily wild. Those few fun moments, however, all appear in the trailers and advertisements.
You can see the best of Office Christmas Party at home for free. Hell, you’d probably find more fun at your own office holiday celebration. There’s really nothing on hand here to support any solid recommendation. It’s got all the right ingredients but the filmmakers serve it up undercooked on an unappetizing platter.
Perhaps the biggest buzzkill at this shindig is the film’s own plot; needlessly laborious and impossible to connect with, this tale of a ragtag group of colleagues banding together to save their company is constructed using the same old gum and toothpicks that have propped up many a forgettable comedy before it. The movie comes from the directing duo behind the Will Ferrell figure skating vehicle Blades of Glory, which is a laugh riot compared to this.
Josh (Jason Bateman) is the mild-mannered CTO of the Chicago branch of Zenotek, a floundering technology company. The office boss is Josh’s buddy Clay (T.J. Miller), a supposedly lovable goofball whose ice-cold sister (Jennifer Aniston) is days away from seizing control as corporate CEO.
Clay and Josh are faced with an ultimatum and must land the big kahuna that could save the company (Courtney B. Vance, obviously letting loose after his award-winning portrayal of Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) or see their family of coworkers lose their jobs.
If the story doesn’t sound overly enticing that’s because it really isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. There’s the requisite beautiful love interest (Olivia Munn) for our bland protagonist and the diametrically opposed HR manager and customer service rebel (a wasted Kate McKinnon and Rob Corddry, respectively).
There’s the wounded divorcee and the socially awkward nerd, and the sassy security guard who does very little to keep the proceedings safe. Toss in some racial stereotypes and misplaced raunch and you’ve got a recipe for wasted time and talent. For all the promised outrageousness and holiday fireworks we’re led to expect, Office Christmas Party coughs up very few gifts worth keeping.
There’s no denying the professionalism and comedic sensibilities of the established ensemble cast and all the performers really do try their hardest. But a screenplay that is stuffed to the gills with gags that crash and jokes that bomb holds them all back. A stale recurring fart joke wasted on a talented actress such as Kate McKinnon subconsciously sets the bar for the level of quality one can come to expect at any given moment.
Clay and Josh try to pull out all the stops to keep their employees happy, and the two men are each endearing in their own minor way due to the actors embodying their hollow characterization. The elaborateness of the lengths they go to is sometimes entertaining enough to coerce lots of smirks and smiles but nary a single guffaw.
In the moment, Office Christmas Party is probably more fun than watching the Yule log burn for an hour and three quarters. But it won’t be as memorable.
Two out of five!