Office Christmas Party full movie review - Decent Party Comedy That Gets the Job Done
I feel like we haven't had a really good party comedy in a while. I think the last great one was the original Hangover, there have been movies that have tried to replicate the lightening in the bottle that was that movie (Due Date, Project X).
But we haven't got that next big crazy movie yet (it certainly didn't come from either one of the Hangover sequels). Office Christmas Part brought the right people in (T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Kate McKinnon are some of the leading comedians in movies right now) but could they replicate the results to make a Christmas classic? I liked it in the end but I don't think it will join the ranks of the films you'll be putting in the Blu-Ray players at Christmas time.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* We're coming into the Christmas season in modern-day Chicago where Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) has just finished a bitter divorce settlement with his ex-wife. He's trying to concentrate on his work at Zenotek and hanging out with his best-friend Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) who is the head of this particular branch of Zenotek. Josh's job seems to be to diffuse workplace squabbles between his subordinates and underlings. We meet Mary (Kate McKinnon), Jeremy (Rob Corddry), Nate (Karan Soni) and Tracey (Olivia Munn) who there is a little sexual tension with. Tracey is involved on the technical side of Zenotek and is convinced she's on the verge of a breakthrough. Clay is planning the Christmas party and is out shopping for gifts for his employees. Clay isn't much of a business man but he genuinely cares about his employees and wants them to be happy. Unlike him, his sister Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) doesn't share that sentiment. She's the interim CEO of Zenotek and is unsatisfied with the growth of the branch. She intends to shut it down. Clay, Josh and Tracey decide that the only way to save their work is to nail down a big account from Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). He passes on their initial pitch but they decide to invite him to the office Christmas party to convince him of the bond between the employees at the branch.
I went into more detail with the plot than you probably needed to know. The biggest drawback to Office Christmas Party is that while the plot plays into the movie a lot, it's paper thin. That's typical of this type of movie, the problem with this specific movie is that there are too many subplots added on top of it. Some of them are funnier than others but the time that is split between them isn't managed well and it screws with flow of the movie. Other smaller drawbacks include the fact the movie could have been trimmed down a little bit (cutting some of the unnecessary subplots might have helped) and Office Christmas Party also tries to wrap up everything in a neat little bow at the end. It also tries to tug on the heart strings and give some of the characters some more development. While it's nice they tried, the overall tone of the rest of the movie doesn't mesh with it.
I got some of the negative stuff out of the way but what a party comedy needs to do ultimately is provide you with some laughs and make you want to witness the craziness that's going to unfold. I laughed throughout this movie pretty regularly and while the party speeds by plausibility by the end of the 2nd act, I didn't bother me as much as it did in similar films. The high calibre cast elevates the material and it also helps that they have some funny jokes and some entertaining set-pieces (most of the physical comedy is pretty hilarious). The movie takes a little while to get to the party (the beginning is still amusing but with what the trailers show, you can't help but want the movie to get on with it) but I thought there was enough of a payoff to make it worthwhile.
When it comes to the actors/actresses, the movie had some solid acting but I thought a couple of people phoned it in a little. This is right up T.J. Miller's alley and I thought he was the funniest out of entire cast. It was weird to see Olivia Munn doing this movie but she was pretty decent. They avoid making her a secondary love interest with no comedic value or so wacky that it's unrealistic. After being disappointed with her in X-Men Apocalypse, I was impressed with her here. Courtney B. Vance was pretty great after abandoning the straight-man role earlier in the movie and I liked Kate McKinnon in her off-beat role. Some of the bigger billed actors just resorted to playing their normal type-cast parts. Jason Bateman is Jason Bateman from many other movies, Rob Corddry is always fun but he's just a toned down version of his character in Hot Tub Time Machine. Jennifer Aniston is almost exactly her character from Horrible Bosses but she's not nearly as funny.
If you're expecting the comedy-of-the-year from Office Christmas Party, you might walk away from the theatre disappointed. I don't expect this movie to have a ton of staying power but for a movie that wasn't getting much love from the critics, there was more than enough here to make the trip to the theatre worthwhile. Although Office Christmas Party wasn't a home run, it's still one of the better entries in the genre lately and if you're interested in going to see it, don't be discouraged by the bad reviews. I think you'll get what you want out of it, a decent 1 3/4 hours at the movies.