Movie Review: ‘OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY’ comes bearing gifts and lumps of coal

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Jared McMillan // Film Critic

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
Rated R, 105 minutes.
Director: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. MillerJennifer AnistonKate McKinnonCourtney B. VanceJillian BellRob CorddryVanessa BayerRandall ParkSam RichardsonKaran Soni and Fortune Feimster

It’s that time of year again! Where we all sit around listening to Christmas music, or watching that favorite holiday flick for the gazillionth time. And there are good, wholesome family films that everyone can enjoy as we wind down 2016. But there are also the ones that try to flip these traditions and deliver something with a little kick. Aside from those deep into awards season, the Cineplex tends to deliver something that people can enjoy without putting too much thought into the viewing.

This year’s entry goes to OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY, an ensemble comedy that takes the common holiday theme of the “Christmas miracle” but powered by the metaphor of a socioeconomic downturn’s effect on the psyche of the every-day employee. Just kidding. It’s an R-rated jaunt that uses one-liners and sight gags to keep the masses entertained, strung along by a thin plot to say the least.

The movie begins with Josh, who is officially divorced and on his own. As he gets to work at Zenotech, the audience is introduced to the key players of the inevitable proceedings, namely HR head Mary (Kate McKinnon), customer service manager Jeremy (Rob Corddry), executive assistant Allison (Vanessa Bayer), and Tracey (Olivia Munn), who is the firm’s lead engineer and Josh’s tech wizard.
Josh and his manager Clay (TJ Miller) are in the midst of a typical work day when the Scrooge of the story comes in, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who is the CEO and Clay’s sister. She threatens to lay off 40% of the branch unless they land a whale in Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). As the meeting goes south and Walter is heading out the door, Clay devises an idea to throw a bash at the office and convince their potential client that Zenotek is about more than work.

This is all, of course, a setup for the main event of OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know a bit about what to expect from this flick, which is white-collar employees letting off too much steam and breaking hell loose. Anybody who has worked in an office environment knows the high amount of passive aggressive tension due to corporate hierarchy. Group that in with a man-child for a boss and a booze-filled rager and it’s a Molotov cocktail of awkward hilarity.

As the movie goes on, it’s clear that the story is patchwork and inconsistent. They’re in the midst of inventing new tech called Anywair, which allows for any source of electrical output to become a Wi-Fi hotspot it seems; there’s hardly any more depth to it. Also, Tracey is the world’s greatest hacker apparently. Furthermore, the plot points and eventual relationships that form in the end are seen coming a mile away.

But that’s not what you’re here to see! You’re here for the euphemism of an eggnog luge, the no-holds barred banter, or the comedic anarchy. You’re here for the incidental drug use, the deluge of profanity, a Jimmy Butler cameo, and Jillian Bell almost stealing the show as a pimp named Trina.

Is OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY one of the greats? Not at all. However, it delivers a lot of laughs in multiple tidings of discomfort and joy.

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY opens on Friday.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.