Overheard in the bathroom: “Erm, I know this is a Christmas show, but this isn’t really suitable for kids right?”
I think the guy might have missed the memo about the M18 rating but – no kidding. Office Christmas Party is your urban hedonistic party nightmare come true.
We know office parties are one of the confusing conundrums of our times. You’re celebrating your holiday in a place where you’d like to be away from. Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) knows this but being the earnest, idealistic boss that he is, he wrangles his trusted advisers Josh (Jason Bateman), Tracey (Olivia Munn), Mary (Kate McKinnon) and Jeremy (Rob Corddry) to organise one for his beloved start-up Zenotek.
In comes his wound-up CEO of a sister Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) who wants to shut his branch down because they are underperforming with growth at “only” 6.5%. The jealous sister, who begrudges her playful brother for being the doted sibling, is only held back when Josh and Tracey pitches their attempt to close a deal of $14m with a potential client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). With the meeting scheduled for that same day, she grants them an extension.
The meeting doesn’t go too well, but Clay comes up with an idea to hold an epic office Christmas party to impress the uptight Walter. In comes snow machines, ice slides, reindeers, and even a fully committed “Jesus” actor to rev things up. What can possibly go wrong, right?
Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck churn out one of their classic formulas, a contemporary story with its dial turned up to “overload”. Office Christmas Party is filled with enough pop culture references and humour spectrum to satisfy the most jaded of us. The event goes awry in ways that will make you wince yet chuckle gleefully all the way.
There are priceless one-liner observations, such as those uttered by a deadpan Mary, “But no cronuts. Those are pastry bastards.” Her nemesis in Customer Support, Jeremy advises Josh in the middle of the party, that “there’s a real human centipede situation going on in the men’s room”. Wicked.
The body gags are also there. Witness Clay’s unthought-out sleigh ride down his office staircase as Santa, or Nate’s (Karan Soni) single-minded, unaffected response to his street accident – “Merry Christmas!” The stuntmen should be having a field day.
We can’t forget that a party on overdrive can get raunchy; so you’ll see an elf sculpture dispensing eggnog where he shouldn’t, folks 3D-printing their privates, and a disturbing fetish from Fred (Randall Park). Naughty or nice, it’s pretty much all covered – or uncovered.
Whatever the situation, the film’s pace almost never lets up, thanks to the deluge from the motley ensemble. But that’s not to say that Office Christmas Party is without its flaws. It splinters up into several story arcs, which thins down some of the more important motivations, such as Josh’s betrayel or Mary’s sudden reversal. It also over-relies on awkwardness, such as the scene when Josh and Tracey comes out dancing in plastic snowman suits. Also, when a movie contains priceless one-liners, a trailer can ruin plenty, so stay away (although many laughed anyway – or more so, hmmm – at those parts).
The scenes that worked best were when the party wasn’t raging. The initial office meeting really established the dynamics between the office workers, with their quirks and temperaments, yet delivering on sniggers. Another scene-stealer was the one where the no-nonsense Carol comes back to her airport lounge seat to find her cinnamon snack stolen by a bratty girl opposite her. She false-dials Santa to report the girl (Summer Fontana) and punches her with a verbal “Fuck you,” before trotting away in her Louboutins. Oh snap.
Worth a mention, Jillian Bell and Da’Vine Joy Randolph were stand-outs, portraying schizophrenic pimp Trina and fully-invested office security guard Carla with flair. Every scene they appear in makes for a good un-Christmassy laugh.
The film performs reasonably well handling its massive cast, and although it can do with more focus on the overall plot, Office Christmas Party is like a string of Christmas lights – multicolored, always flashing, but always fun to watch.
This sleigh ride is a little bumpy, but remains a comedic fast and furious way to celebrate a wacky, funny Christmas. Enjoy!
The film is currently showing at all major cinemas.
First published: www.moviexclusive.com