Office Christmas Party Review: *hip hop air horn*

Chad White
Loves: Ensemble comedies
Likes: to party, Jimmy Butler
Dislikes: Bland comedies, broken scripts
Hates: Dead stop climaxes

Non-denominational. All inclusive.

Heavily casted, A-list movies aren’t always the best. The late Garry Marshall’s last three forays into film, for instance, weren’t the best things for the comedic movie genre. If anything is to be said about these ensemble comedies, it’s that they’re not entirely funny, original or story driven. But it is nice to pretend that there’s a world where Halle Berry, Zac Efron and Lea Michelle are a stone’s throw away from each other. So one can surmise that these movies are equal to that of the Transformer series: fun but not filling. Enter Office Christmas Party which definitely takes in the “but not filling” aspect of these comedy movies.

T.J. Miller plays Clay Vanstone who inherited a profitable branch of a company from his dead father. He works with other “main characters” Tracey (Olivia Munn), Josh (Jason Bateman), and Allison (Vanessa Bayer). All of the characters (including Rob Corddry, Sam Richardson, Kate McKinnon, Randall Park, and Jamie Chung) work at the company too. Before their annual Christmas party, Vanstone’s intermediate CEO sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) says she’s closing the branch and that the party can’t go forward. Clay decides to throw the biggest party of the year and, obviously, things get out of hand.

For what this movie is worth as a whole, there are some great jokes from writers Justin Malen, Laura Solon and Dan Mazer. Miller is -- mostly -- allowed to be himself and Bateman is always a good straight man. The actual issue is trying to fit the dozen other comedy talent into the story. Bayer and McKinnon get their time but Park, Corddry and Richardson are used sparingly, which is devastating as all three lead their own TV shows. Plus there are long, long stretches with unfunny and overdone jokes.

The story (or whatever it was) moves on at a less than haphazard pace, tripping into jokes rather than allowing them to coexist with plot. The cast makes it work though and even Munn and Aniston get a laugh and a half. Jillian Bell, though, is great as her drug dealer character. Don’t expect this to be a weaving tale. From minute one, every detail is given and some jokes are even foreshadowed heavily. To add to that, the party gets bigger but it doesn’t feel bigger. Project X, for instance, felt like those characters would be in a lot of trouble once a flame thrower was brought out. Office escalated at a snail’s pace only to have a big stunt stopped and have the story along with the movie come to a complete halt.

Direction from Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory) moves the show along. It’s not exceptionally flashy. However, they do follow the action appropriately whether it be a printer falling out of a window or Miller riding a sleigh into a file cabinet. There’s not much else to say except that it’s all really competent.

Should you watch Office Christmas Party?

There’s one or two things to love about this movie if you’re a comedy fan. The cast is good and the setting is contained but it’s not the Christmas romp that The Night Before was last year. Office Christmas Party IS a novel concept. It’s just too bad it’s not very funny.

Notes

  • Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston must have each other’s numbers by now. They’ve been in five movies together with another coming.
  • Fwan fwan fwaaaannnn!
  • Not mentioned in the cast: Fortune Feimster as an Uber driver; Courtney B. Vance as a Dell executive; Karan Soni as the office IT manager; Abbey Lee Kershaw as an escort.
  • Like I mentioned in the review, Project X -- albeit a worse movie -- had a feeling of intensity that was lacking here. Also one of the kids from that movie is in here and I was racking my brain of who he was the entire time.
  • Speaking of things I had to deal with, please, for the love of God, if you go to a movie just shut your mouth. The people next to me would not stop commenting. Full volume. It’s 9:50 on a Saturday morning. I came at that time for a reason.
  • A staple of comedy movies from the past decade is the “You look like a…” game. This is blanket term I use to describe the jokes that begin the same way and the use of a bunch of jokes edited in rapid succession. The latter is usually when the characters have a back and forth with jokes that apply to only the moment at hand. The best example of this is on Hot Tub Time Machine 2 when Clark Duke breaks the fourth wall and names the game. All this is said because Office characters were allotted a few of these lines. It was okay. Other movies have better lines.
  • Principal photography was in Georgia but they did a really good job of blending the city with Chicago. Really. It was very good.
  • Both IMDB and Wikipedia say Matt Walsh was in the movie. I don’t know where the heck he is.
  • Seeing Jennifer yell obscenities at a small child filled me with so much joy.
  • I am admittedly a huge sucker for ensemble works. Comedy, drama, action. I’ll watch it and find something to like about it. I’ll miss you, Mr. Marshall (he told me to call him Garry but I won’t).