In the (surprisingly) growing sub-genre of raunchy Christmas movies, does Office Christmas Party stand above the rest or is this a party that you won’t want to RSVP to?
Josh (Jason Bateman) is living in Chicago and has finalized his divorce just in time for Christmas. He works at tech company Zenotek for his friend Clay (T.J. Miller), who inherited his position from his recently deceased father. Problems arise when the interim CEO, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), blows into town with a plan to not only cancel the office Christmas party, but to shutter the branch altogether. What makes it worse is that Carol is Clay’s sister. Josh and Clay win a reprieve by promising to land a big client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). However, when Walter turns them down, Clay plans to win him over with a huge blowout for the office Christmas party. Hilarity ensues.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Office Christmas Party is incredibly dumb, but what did you expect? It’s also incredibly funny. As is usually the case, if you’re easily offended, you’ll probably hate this film, but I found it to be hilarious. I did wince as the plot slowly, but surely, careened off the rails and the fact that all the characters work at a tech company easily opens the door for the old “computers can fix everything” trope that films love so much, but the gags are funny, and in a comedy, that’s what’s most important. You won’t find any deep character work here and you’ll cringe at the fact that by-the-book Josh will so easily accept entering a relationship with his subordinate, Tracey (Olivia Munn), but you’ll be laughing as you’re cringing. This is not a comedy on the level of last year’s The Night Before or even the original Bad Santa, but it is definitely a funny film.
The biggest reason for why this film works at all is the fantastic cast assembled by Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Bateman is a dependably funny straight man as he’s proven time and time again in countless films and on Arrested Development. Miller is fantastically funny and he doesn’t disappoint here. Just seeing him on the screen makes me laugh. Munn does a good job here too, though she’s not at the same level as many of the other performers. She definitely has some comedic chops, though, which she demonstrates in one scene in particular with Bateman. Aniston is also funny as the villain of the piece. Think of her as a less-sexed-up version of her character from Horrible Bosses. She’s really mean and it’s hilarious. Vance is the big surprise here as he’s generally known for serious dramatic roles, but I could see him in many more comedies beyond this. It’s the same kind of revelation I had when I saw Andre Braugher on Men of a Certain Age several years ago and now he’s on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which is the furthest thing from a drama. Kate McKinnon shows up as the head of human resources and I felt she was funnier in this movie than she was in the much higher profile Ghostbusters. Her Saturday Night Live cast mate Vanessa Bayer also puts in a good performance as Clay’s secretary. Rob Corddry is his usual asinine self here as the customer service lead and Sam Richardson kills it as the officemate-turned DJ. I liked Jillian Bell as a vindictive pimp, but the material provided to her by the SIX credited writers on this thing wasn’t up to par and her performance suffers as a result.
Overall, Office Christmas Party isn’t going to win any awards and it’s not the greatest comedy ever put together, but it is funny with a dynamite cast. If you’re looking for an afternoon laugh at the theater, you could do worse.