Office Christmas Party
by George Wolf
They say bad things happen when the copier goes down.
When it’s fully operational at the Office Christmas Party …well, those aren’t TPS reports.
Clay (T.J. Miller) is the Chicago branch manager at a big tech company who wants to throw a Christmas party like his Dad did back in the days when employees “got drunk before noon.” Trouble is, since Dad died Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) is CEO and she wants to fill Clay’s stocking with budget cuts.
In fact, Carol might close the entire Chicago operation down unless Clay, Chief Tech Officer Josh (Jason Bateman) and IT wiz Tracey (Olivia Munn) can find a way to land the multi-million dollar account of Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). Their standard pitch to Davis is less than persuasive, so what’s left to do but impress him with office camaraderie at an epic holiday bash?
Despite warnings from an HR head (Kate McKinnon) who wants a non-denominational mixer and hangs up “think of your family” signs, the staff naughty list starts getting crowded.
The premise (from the guys behind The Hangover) seems a perfect fit for this talent-laden ensemble. It might fit too well, as even the steady amount of laughs the film lands feels a tad disappointing.
I mean, if you need a wisecracking nice guy, a mean-spirited boss with sarcastic bite, and a Tommy Boy for today, Bateman, Aniston and Miller should be on speed dial.
Plus there’s a break room full of winning side characters. From Karan Soni’s guy-with-an-imaginary-girlfriend to Rob Corddry’s embittered lifer to Jillian Bell’s curiously polite pimp and beyond, entertaining impressions are mined from limited screen time by people clearly trained to do just that. And McKinnon? There may not be a better scene-stealer around, and you’re afraid to look away for fear of missing even the subtlest of gags.
Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory, The Switch) and their team of writers manage some passing nods to cutthroat corporate culture and political correctness, but thankfully don’t try to overthink things. Just let these ponies run. And though I’m guessing there was plenty of inspired improvisation (stay for the in-credits gag reel), even their best peaks can’t hide some valleys in the script.
But hey, it’s the holidays, be of good cheer and ride out them out for the payoffs. Office Christmas Party supplies them, even if, like that end of the year bonus, you were hoping for a little more.