OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
(Dirs. Josh Gordon & Will Speck, 2016)
As a kid, I believe that I learned from Mad Magazine, and various other satirical sources, the clichés associated with office Christmas parties – i.e. employees getting blind drunk, shedding their work attire, Xeroxing their asses, throwing office equipment out the window, and having sex with people they normally wouldn’t.
They’re all here in this new raunchy comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the filmmakers behind BLADES OF GLORY, THE SWITCH, and that failed Cavemen sitcom that was spun off from a series of GEICO ads (not exactly a shining pedigree, huh?).
So if anybody can take those familiar tropes and make them funny all over again, the over qualified comic cast assembled here surely can. You’d think, right?
Nope - despite the best efforts of Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, Rob Corddry, and a couple of SNL ladies, Kate McKinnon and Vanessa Bayer, this is a forgettable romp with as many uninspired gags as there are predictable plot mechanics.
Bateman, who’s fifth film this is with Aniston, plays the newly divorced Josh Parker, a Data Storage Solutions CTO at Zenotek, a Chicago based tech company run by Miller as branch president Clay Vanstone. Clay’s sister, Carol (Aniston), is the corporation’s CEO, and she’s threatening to close her brother’s branch down or firing 40% of the staff unless they can land a major client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), and score a $14 million contract.
Carol also forbids Clay and his staff from having a Christmas party this year. Of course, they ignore her and plan on throwing the biggest bash ever complete with a live nativity scene with actors, a DJ (Veep’s Sam Richardson), and water coolers filled with liquor, in hopes of impressing their potential client.
If only hilarity ensued instead of a bunch of predictable, unfunny story strands like the one about the IT head (Karan Soni) who hires a hooker (Abby Lee Kershaw) because he lied to his co-workers about having a girlfriend, or the one about Bayer looking for love with office mate Randall Park only to find he has a weird fetish, or the one about McKinnon’s HR manager Mary shedding her PC-obsessed, by-the-book nature and getting her party on.
There’s even the old standby of having two characters, Bateman’s and Munn’s, getting locked out together on the roof so that realize they’re supposed to be together.
Although there’s lots of shots of nudity and abundant profanity, the movie really isn’t that raunch-minded. It’s oddly more concerned with the stakes of trying to save the company via some internet server deal that Munn’s Tracey has been developing while the over-the-top destruction of their office space goes on in the background (in another worn out convention, everyone in Chicago has been invited to the party thanks to social media).
There are intermittent laughs with random one-liners landing and some successful sight gags, but overall this is a wasted opportunity to really have fun with wasted people.
This year seems to have seen every kind of bad comedy there is, so the naughty, R-rated Christmas comedy genre is represented here. I bet the after effect for the cast, who will all undoubtedly go on to better things, will be much the same as for a real office Christmas party, let’s all forget that any of that embarrassing stuff ever happened and get back to work.