Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review: Office Christmas Party

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
All "Office Christmas Party" needs is a few musical numbers to make it complete. Although set in the world of cell phone technology, the picture takes that time honored - well, at least, during Hollywood's golden age in the 1930s and 1940s - story about a group of people banding together to save something. In the old days, they'd put on a variety show to save the neighborhood theater, whereas in this picture it's a tech company that is in danger of being closed.

Starring a whole bunch of likable people clearly looking for a paycheck - including Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance and Olivia Munn - the film is the type that mistakes drunken debauched behavior and a whole lot of stuff getting smashed and broken for humor. There's an occasional chuckle to be had, mostly thanks to McKinnon as an uptight office manager, but "Office Christmas Party" is mostly a by-the-numbers comedy.

As the film opens, Bateman's Josh has just finalized his divorce - a detail that only exists to make an office romance convenient and for virtually no other reason - and is planning the titular celebration with his boss, Clay (Miller), the prodigal son who runs the flagship branch of his father's company. However, his no-nonsense sister (Aniston) shows up to rain on the parade, telling the group to cancel the Christmas party and threatening layoffs.

So, to keep the company afloat, the duo - along with a Munn's Tracey, the tech genius at the company with whom Bateman is secretly smitten - plan to make the party one to remember and invite the representative (Vance) from a tech giant to the party in the hopes of warming him up to becoming a business partner.

Naturally, things go wrong - as in, the party gets completely out of control. Drugs are taken. Clothes are shed. Someone tries - and fails - to swing across a room via a cord filled with Christmas lights. Expensive looking objects are tossed out of office windows. And the leads all get entangled with a female pimp and the Russian criminals she employs in a plotline too exhausting to describe that turns a bad situation into chaos.

As I mentioned before, the picture's cast is made up of likable and talented people who can be a lot of fun to watch. Only, it doesn't seem as if most of them, McKinnon excluded, are having such a great time. "Office Christmas Party" follows in the footsteps of too many randy Hollywood comedies that did it much better, only this time with a seasonal theme. There are a few laughs to be found in the film, but not nearly enough.

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