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Office Christmas Party Movie Review

Office Christmas Party (2016) movie poster Office Christmas Party

Theatrical Release: December 9, 2016 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: R

Directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck / Writers: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, Dan Mazer (screenplay); Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, Timothy Dowling (story)

Cast: Jason Bateman (Josh Parker), Olivia Munn (Tracey Hughes), T.J. Miller (Clay Vanstone), Jennifer Aniston (Carol Vanstone), Kate McKinnon (Mary Winetoss), Courtney B. Vance (Walter Davis), Jillian Bell (Trina), Rob Corddry (Jeremy), Vanessa Bayer (Allison), Randall Park (Fred), Sam Richardson (Joel/DJ Calvis), Karan Soni (Nate), Jamie Chung (Meaghan), Abbey Lee (Savannah), Da'Vine Joy Randolph (Carla), Andrew Leeds (Tim), Oliver Cooper (Drew), Chloe Wepper (Kelsey), Matt Walsh (Ezra), Ben Falcone (Doctor), Adrian Martinez (Larry), Fortune Feimster (Lonny), Erick Chavarria (Alan), Jimmy Butler (Himself)


No holiday season passes without there being a new movie centered on Christmas. This year has already seen the release of Almost Christmas, a comedy largely made for and by African Americans.
Now, here is Office Christmas Party, an R-rated comedy from white filmmakers and actors. Specifically, Office hails from the directing duo behind Blades of Glory and The Switch and six writers whose credits include The Hangover, Role Models, Pixels, and Borat. The cast is led by such 21st century comedy film mainstays as Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston. The results aren't anywhere near as good as they were on the original Horrible Bosses.

This time around, Bateman is a boss to many at the Chicago branch of an Internet server company. Easygoing but efficient, newly-divorced Josh Parker is generally liked by his employees and by the branch's CEO, Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), an easily distracted party dude who inherited the job from his late father. Though morale is good, the Chicago branch's earnings are not showing the growth they are supposed to, which is a cause for concern with Clay's sister, Carol (Aniston), his higher-up. She threatens to lay off 40% of the site's workforce. Oh, and she also cancels the big Christmas party the staff is looking forward to.

Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) and Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) throw an office Christmas party in "Office Christmas Party."

Josh, Clay, and ambitious software developer Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) see the branch's fate as resting on a big deal they need to close with Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance).
He admits he's about to choose Dell over this outfit, but agrees to attend the office Christmas party that will show him he's wrong about the company's culture. With Clay bankrolling, the uncancelled shindig pulls out all the stops: a snow machine, a DJ, an open bar, and even Chicago Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler. Of course, this being an R-rated comedy from the writers of The Hangover and Borat, things do not go as planned. A nerd's girlfriend lie brings an escort (Abbey Lee) with an aggressive pimp (Jillian Bell) into the mix. A bag of cocaine gets mistaken for fake snow that is fanned into Davis' face. And when Carol learns from her Uber driver that the party she nixed is back on in full effect, she returns to exert her authority and voice her displeasure.

Office Christmas Party should be fun. Bateman is almost always a likable lead and the cast around him, including Rob Corddry, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, and Randall Park, has proven entertaining in the right roles. But this is a film that believes too much in its uninvolving story and never gets the big laughs it wants out of shenanigans like an egg nog fountain resembling ejaculation or a big song and dance number involving DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat."

There are some likable elements, and some appeal to the underdog story, but there just simply is not the wit needed to generate regular and hearty laughs. The big laughs come from small places, like an Uber driver (Fortune Feimster) who can't shut up, some Fast and the Furious references, and a bit of roleplaying that gets awkward in a hurry. The plot that drives the film never gets us fully onboard. You assume these jobs will be saved by some Christmas miracle, but if not, we're never given a good reason to want these people to be gainfully employed. There is even a half-hearted romance between Josh and Tracey that the movie flirts with wanting us to cheer for, but fails to go all in on.

Office Christmas Party is never as outrageous as you expect it to be or as clever as you'd like it to be. It's not up there with "The Office" or Office Space, to compare it to similarly titled comedy landmarks. It plays like Die Hard without the hostage situation, somehow even lacking the immediacy and personality of that hypothetical.

Everyone here is capable of better work and everyone has produced it before. You might not hate Office Christmas Party, but you will wish you liked it as much as it wanted you to.

Related Reviews:
From the Directors: The Switch Blades of Glory | From the Writers: The Hangover Pixels
Bateman & Aniston: Horrible Bosses Horrible Bosses 2 | Jason Bateman: Extract Zootopia The Family Fang | Jennifer Aniston:
T.J. Miller: She's Out of My League Cloverfield Big Hero 6 Yogi Bear Our Idiot Brother | Kate McKinnon: Ghostbusters (2016) Masterminds
Elf Scrooged Fred Claus Happy Holidays Collection Four Christmases Dinner for Schmucks Love the Coopers

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Reviewed December 9, 2016.

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