Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman appeared in the edgy “Horrible Bosses” films so you’d expect their new movie, “Office Christmas Party” to be holiday fare more naughty than nice. But you’d be wrong. Their latest suffers from not being too vulgar, but from being not vulgar enough.
Aniston runs Zenotech Data Storage Systems, a tech company she inherited from her late father. Dad left her the company but gave the main branch to her party animal brother Clay (T.J. Miller). She’s a strict by–the-book business person the Grinch who cancels all branch Christmas parties to save money and gives Clay until the end of the quarter, just two days away, to turn things around or she will lay off 40% of the staff and cancel all bonuses.
Clay is scattered with a “mind like a drunk baby,” but determined to protect his branch and his staff. To that end he recruits head programmers Josh (Jason Bateman) and Tracey (Olivia Munn) to woo a lucrative client (Courtney B. Vance) by throwing a no-holds-barred office Christmas party. “This is the way we close Walter, we throw the best Christmas party he’s ever seen,” says Clay. “We could save everybody’s jobs.”
Despite Clay’s warning, “When I drink a lot bad things happen,” they proceed with the party. Add in a greedy pimp, $300,000 in cold hard cash, a sexually repressed head of HR (Kate McKinnon) and an office load of drunk, disgruntled employees and you have a Bacchanalia that would make would make Caligula blush.
Given the premise “Office Christmas Party” is not nearly as wild as a movie about and out of control party should be. Despite the excess of flesh and booze the movie often opts for sentimentality over debauchery. It most certainly doesn’t put the ‘X’ in Xmas.
Tone wise it should feel like anything could happen; like the movie could go off the rails at any second. Instead it’s as sweet and gooey as a (slightly soiled) Hallmark Christmas card.
Packed with comedy heavy hitters like Aniston, Bateman, McKinnon and Miller, it’s the supporting cast who garner most of the laughs. Fortune Feimster, a comic best known for her work on “The Mindy Project” livens things up as a motor mouth Uber driver and Randall Park’s take on a shy-but-kinky office worker has its charms but it is Courtney B. Vance who steals the show. The velvet-voiced character actor who specializes in playing lawyers—think “Law & Order” and his Johnnie Cochran in
“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”—unexpectedly lets his freak flag fly and the results are glorious. If it was his movie it might have been more fun.
Somebody should’ve spiked “Office Christmas Party’s” punch.