OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Karan Soni, Jillian Bell, Sam Richardson, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Andrew Leeds, Oliver Cooper, Matt Walsh
MPAA Rating: (for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity)
Running Time: 1:45
Release Date: 12/9/16
Review by Mark Dujsik | December 8, 2016
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and in the case of Office Christmas Party, the good thing is the movie's cast. There are actors you will know and many more you undoubtedly will recognize here. The names pass by with increasing surprise and occasional delight during the opening credits. There are so many that, when, say, Courtney B. Vance eventually turns up as the frustrated representative of a major technology company or, maybe, Randall Park appears as a mild-mannered office employee, the feeling of surprise and/or delight shows up again. Those brief moments, sadly, are the best parts of the movie.
The "too much" part of the affair is that there are simply too many actors, each of them doing their own thing without much sense of how that thing fits into the whole of the movie. It's not their fault. That's the reason each of them is here: Each has a certain shtick for which they've become known. The movie, in its portrayal of a rollicking office holiday party that becomes increasingly chaotic, is banking on the bedlam that the combination of all these comic talents might bring, simply by being placed in the same space. The filmmakers' motto seems to be, "Let's just see what happens."
Well, it should be obvious what happens when you have a lot of defined and sometimes out-there screen personalities vying for the spotlight. Their respective quirks and bits eventually start to cancel out each other. There must be something more to such an affair than just the semblance of structure, which is all the screenplay by Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer provides.
That basic structure, such as it is, is a flimsy excuse for a plot. That's fine as a setup, but that's all it is for the screenplay. Basically, there's an internet company in Chicago (The end credits boast the fact that the movie was made in Georgia), and it's having financial problems. Josh (Jason Bateman) is the office manager who has just finalized his divorce. Tracey (Olivia Munn), the resident tech expert, thinks Josh is too soft in his managerial style, and she also wants to date him, of course.
Clay (T.J. Miller), whose late father owned the company, runs the branch and is running it into the ground. His sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), the interim CEO for the company, storms into the office on the day of the big holiday party and tells Clay that his branch won't be having the party, his employees won't be getting bonuses, and 40 percent of the office will be laid off.
Clay, Josh, and Tracey have one chance to save the branch: Convince the rep of a major tech firm (played by Vance) to sign a contract with them. To do so, they'll show him the time of his life at the now proceeding-as-planned-and-then-some holiday party.
The jokes mostly come from the "and then some" part of the bash. Clay goes for broke on the party budget with such things as multi-gallon jugs of assorted booze, a snow machine (that spits out a cloud of cocaine at one point), and reindeer.
These details are worth a few chuckles as they show up on screen, and then the screenplay and directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck simply forget about turning them into jokes (Vance's character mentions the reindeer, although the movie's shooting schedule apparently couldn't fit them in for another day). The decoration that gets the most use is an egg nog fountain, which is in the shape of an ice sculpture of a male figure. The fountain's spout is the exact part of the sculpture's body that allows Bateman and others to be embarrassed about gulping milky liquid.
There aren't jokes here so much as there are set-ups, followed by blank spaces during which the cast members can do as they please—without, apparently, much guidance. In addition to everyone mentioned beforehand, the cast includes performers such as Kate McKinnon (as an uptight manager of human resources), Vanessa Bayer (as the object of the Park character's affections), Sam Richardson (as the polite guy who takes on a much more vulgar persona as a DJ), and Rob Corddry (as, unsurprisingly, the office jerk).
There are more, of course, but to list them and their various subplots (including the office nerd hiring an escort, whose pimp brings about the movie's extended, out-of-nowhere chase of a climax) would just be filling space in this review. As tempting as that is (and, admittedly, has been, dear reader), let's just call it a day: Office Christmas Party doesn't know what to do with its cast, and the cast doesn't seem certain what to do with the material they don't have.
Copyright © 2016 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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