Welcome to the House of Crouse. It’s a packed house this week. Director John Madden goes long on his political thriller Miss Sloane and the pleasures of working with Jessica Chastain. T.J. Miller talks about laughing through the apocalypse and Riz Ahmed discusses realizing a childhood dream by starring in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s loads of guests and loads of fun so c’mon in and set a spell!
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Office Christmas Party” with T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Jenifer Aniston, “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman, “Lion” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain as “Miss Sloan.”
Richard sits in with Erin Paul to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Office Christmas Party” with T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Jenifer Aniston, “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman, “Lion” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain as “Miss Sloan.”
In Office Christmas Party T.J. Miller plays Clay, a scattered office manager with a “mind like a drunk baby.” In a last ditch effort to save his branch from closure he tries to woo a lucrative client by throwing a no-holds-barred Christmas party.
“This is the way we close Walter,” says Clay. “We throw the best Christmas party he’s ever seen. We could save everybody’s jobs.”
Miller leads an ensemble cast featuring heavy-hitters like Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon and Jennifer Aniston but he doesn’t want to talk about that. Not right away, anyway.
Instead he begins the interview with, “Let’s talk comedy in a time of tragedy.”
“Basically I have a political obstacle to my social mission statement,” he says. “The social statement was, tragedy permeates our everyday lives, people are lonely, they’re scared, they have death anxiety, they don’t know how to attribute meaning to their own existence, so through comedy we can provide an opiate or distraction that permeates our everyday lives. Through satire we can hopefully frame the world in a way that people can laugh at.
“Also I aim to help people, through my stand up, to release the death anxiety. I aim to help people not take themselves so seriously.”
When Miller, who also currently plays Erlich Bachman on Silicon Valley, finally gets around to talking about Office Christmas Party, he’s still on message.
“It’s very easy to promote a comedy during the apocalypse,” he says.
The Christmas film, which features a greedy pimp, a sexually repressed head of HR and an office load of drunk, disgruntled employees, is a mix and match of sentimentality and debauchery that Miller thinks is perfect for the season.
“What better way to spend the holidays?” he asks. “First of all you don’t have to talk to your family for an hour-and-a-half during the holidays. That’s a bonus. If the movie is funny, you talk about how funny it was for half-an-hour. How dynamic Jenifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Courtney B. Vance are. How strange I look in a Santa suit for that long. That my facial hair is still abrasive and arresting. That’s two- and-a-half to three hours towards a stress free holiday. That’s what we’re pitching you.
“It’s a funny movie. It’s a laugh a minute. Well, it’s a laugh every minute-and-a-half to two minutes. We wanted to give you a break. It’s exhausting to laugh every minute.”
Miller, who once worked as a legal secretary in the same Chicago office building seen in the film, says the movie is silly and fun but shares his core comedy philosophy.
“Workplace environments have become so sterile and corporations have become so much about profit and not the people they work with that we’ve lost the fun of work. We don’t have cool office Christmas parties anymore. We are saying, ‘You spend so much time with the people you work with, why not have a night or two a year where you can kind of just relax? Take a night off from worrying about offending someone or giving ‘tude.’
“That is our message to North America. Take the holidays, drink way too much eggnog, laugh, relax and know that we’ve got a lot of work to do in 2017.”
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.