Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) is the boss of a branch of Zenotek, a lovable oaf, and one hell of a party guy, but not the best at running a responsible business. His sister and CEO of Zenotek, Carol (Jennifer Anniston), comes just in time for the holidays to tell Clay that she plans on closing his branch of the company. Clay has no choice but to try and impress a potential client the only way he knows how: throw a killer Christmas party. He has to rely on his faithful employees, Josh (Jason Bateman) and Tracey (Olivia Munn), to help seal the deal. Naturally, the party devolves into alcohol-fueled insanity and chaos ensues.
The most shocking aspect of Office Christmas Party is the fact that it isn’t that shocking. The marketing would have you believe that this is the season’s raunchy holiday comedy, like The Hangover and Bad Santa had a lovechild. But, Office Christmas Party is relatively tame and focuses more on its plot than the party itself. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some occasions of raunchiness and wild partying, but the craziest thing you’ll witness is a penis briefly being in frame. It was actually kind of refreshing, walking into this expecting ninety minutes of party scenes and getting the opposite. The jokes come fast and frequent, being surprisingly funny throughout. The premise of an entire office partying allows for a large amount of characters and introduces a wide variety of humor for the film. The jokes begin to tiptoe the border of cheesy/corny towards the end of the film, but it was a solid show for fans of comedy.
The best thing that Office Christmas Party has going for it is the ensemble cast of comedians. Miller and Bateman easily carry the film forward with their chemistry and comedic timing. I wasn’t too impressed by Aniston, but I think that had to do more with the lack of depth to her character. It’s essentially her same role from Horrible Bosses, minus the edge. Olivia Munn did a fine job, but I could never quite escape the feeling she was just playing herself. Her role has very little as far as defining features goes, outside of being the love interest. The supporting cast did an admirable job providing humor inbetween sequences with the main characters. Rob Corddry, Karan Soni, Randall Park, and Jillian Bell are certainly the highlights of the supporting roles. Personally, I felt that Kate McKinnon stole the show. Her character of Mary from HR began as my least favorite, since it’s entirely cliched. But, McKinnon worked with it and provided the bulk of my laughs throughout the film.
What party sequences they included in the film were all fun to watch and ludicrous. There’s something special about seeing a guy dressed like Christ riding a horse through an office, people shopping cart jousting with Christmas trees, and Corddry reigning from the Iron Throne like Joaquin Phoenix from Gladiator while EDM Trap or Hip-Hop blare in the background. Those were some of my favorite moments, not to mention the few scenes where the set design and cinematography get to flex. When the movie transitions away from these sequences, it goes back to standard fare for a comedy. But, if you enjoy watching party debauchery with a holiday riot twist, then Office Christmas Party will satisfy that craving. Honestly, part of me wished they’d spent more time focusing on the party and really go off the deep end.
Where Office Christmas Party really lost me was the plot. Shocking, I know. But, you’d expect a movie with this kind of title to lack any plot at all. On the contrary, they tried to stuff way too much plot into what could have been an enjoyably simple movie. It seemed like they had to create excuses to shoehorn in guns, martial arts, car chases, saving the day, etc. You would assume that the movie would be focused on the craziness of the party, but it instead used the party as a backdrop setting for the dozens of plot lines that they tried to sneak in. I feel like the marketing team were pitched a different movie than what is hitting the theatres. The trailers were all booze, stunts, and party montage, but that’s a relatively minor amount of scenes in this movie.
I walked into Office Christmas Party expecting a cut-rate Hangover holiday special, but it delivered a much more fun experience than I had thought possible. Sure, the sentimentality towards the end of the film gets cheesy, they tried to fit way too many plotlines into it, and it never gets quite as raunchy as some of us would have liked. But, Office Christmas Party is loaded with hilarious moments, better than average party scenes, and almost every joke lands during the movie. So, grab a buddy, set the bar very low when you walk in, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how much fun this Office Christmas Party can be.
Office Christmas Party