UK Release Date: 7th December 2016
Runtime: 105 minutes
Director: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Writer: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, Dan Mazer
Starring: Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Olivia Munn, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B Vance, Rob Corddry, Karan Soni, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Jillian Bell, Sam Richardson, Abbey Lee Kershaw
Synopsis: A struggling tech company, under threat of closure, stages an enormous Christmas party in the hope of winning over a major client.
Studios frequently release big ensemble movies around Christmas. What we tend to get is a huge cavalcade of famous actors all thrown together in some sort of lame festive setting in the hope that the alchemy of their star power will produce comedy with a high dose of seasonal sweetness. Last year, Christmas with the Coopers floundered in its attempts to create that particular brand of comedy magic and, this time around, it’s the turn of Office Christmas Party. It’s a film in which just about everyone seems to have a great time – except, of course, the audience.
Clay (TJ Miller) is the most easy-going of bosses, with chief tech officer Josh (Jason Bateman) running most of the show. The company’s CEO, and Clay’s sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston) visits just before Christmas to inform Clay that she is considering closing the failing branch. With the help of computer specialist Tracey (Olivia Munn), the duo try to save the branch by securing major client Walter (Courtney B Vance). When he turns them down, they vow to throw a crazy Christmas party in an attempt to woo him, as human resources head Mary (Kate McKinnon) tries to keep the rampant hedonism under control.
The first problem with Office Christmas Party is that its festive setting is entirely irrelevant to the story. The party idea could have taken place at any time of year and there’s nothing that even hints at Christmas about the story, which leaves the time of year feeling like a cynical cash-in. This is little more than an excuse for a tonne of very rich people to spout expletives at each other and throw stuff out of windows whilst being paid an enormous amount of money to do so. Like an Adam Sandler movie, it’s exploiting cinema audiences to give actors an excuse to embrace their hedonistic side.
This is certainly a film that benefits from a sizeable roster of comic talent. In particular, the film completely wastes solid performances from Kate McKinnon, who was outstanding in the Ghostbusters reboot, and Jennifer Aniston, who has a proven track record of nailing the acid-tongued boss role. In fact, the film almost veers into something completely different when Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn are on screen, given that they seem to actually be attempting some acting in the midst of all of the debauchery and noise. It’s as if any sort of plot is seen as a mere inconvenient distraction from the real business of making as much noise as possible and groping occasionally for a laugh.
Office Christmas Party is yet another example of the recent glut of Hollywood comedies that are untroubled by the notion of a rigorous, coherent and funny script. It’s a film that takes its team of Saturday Night Live alumni and veterans of film comedy, puts them in a room with each other and tells them to improvise. On occasion, this works, and Kate McKinnon is able to mine a few laughs from her oddball riffing, but much of the film is something of a wasteland when it comes to real, solid laughs. Too often, a potentially funny premise is pushed and prodded and poked for every possible quip and quickly becomes completely without any level of humour at all.
There are at least three different movies scrambling to emerge from the tangled mess that Office Christmas Party ultimately becomes, with myriad subplots picked up and discarded as per the whims of whoever was in the edit suite at that particular time. The comedy doesn’t work and a final act swerve into ticking clock action territory is both unwarranted and unwelcome. If there had been anything approaching comedy in the preceding hour or so, it might have been forgivable, but this all turned out to be a right festive turkey.
Pop or Poop?
Improvisation frequently falls flat on its face in the dismal Christmas comedy Office Christmas Party, which squanders the seasonal surroundings to deliver something that’s an entirely conventional movie without much in the way of laughter. A great cast has nothing to do except do stupid stuff whilst draped in fairy lights. Ho ho oh no!
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
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