Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
Rated R, 105 minutes.
Director: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan 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.