Film Review: “Office Christmas Party”

office-xmas-posterStarring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn and T.J. Miller
Directed By: Will Speck and Josh Gordon
Rated: R
Running Time: 105 minutes
Paramount Pictures

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Anymore when I watch a new Christmas movie, I tell myself that it could have been a lot worse. “Love the Coopers,” “Fred Claus” and “Surviving Christmas” are just a few of the awful Christmas movies in the past decade that come to mind. But luckily moviegoers have been treated to a handful of yuletide delights at the theaters over the past couple of years. Lately the raunchy comedies have dominated, going light on the holiday cheer, and heavy on the eggnog and drugs. “Office Christmas Party” follows this current pattern, delivering an entertaining enough comedy, but an ultimately forgettable raunchfest.

Clay (Miller) heads up the Chicago branch of Zenotek, a lowly computer technology company that tries to compete with the likes of Dell, Apple and others. His sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who is also Zenotek’s CEO, has just given him the bad news. Bump up your growth to 12% or cut 40% of your staff by the time Christmas rolls around. Being a worker’s boss, he can’t fathom laying off dozens of his closest friends. So in the hopes of landing one of the biggest clients in the Windy City, he sets out to throw the ultimate company Christmas party.

There’s also some other side plots, including office romance and sex, Jason Bateman’s character is dealing with a divorce, and there’s a worker who’s trying to pass off a prostitute as his supermodel girlfriend. None of this really amounts to anything or comes off as remotely heartwarming. It only serves as cohesive glue in between jokes, physical humor, and pop-culture sight gags like the throne from “Game of Thrones.”

But the set-up for the jokes is tired and predictable. It’s almost like the duel directors and multiple scriptwriters were a lot more hesitant to go with ad-libbing and natural comedic abilities of its cast. It makes “Office Christmas Party” a more by-the-books comedy with scripted and foreseeable. When being allowed more natural, the likes of Miller, Bateman, Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry and others are genuinely funny.

Not every moment is unfunny chatter. Once the party kicks off, there’s enough visual comedy to keep it going to its inevitable conclusion. I also can’t help, but be a fanboy of Bateman’s deadpan delivery and Miller’s goofy sensibilities. “Office Christmas Party” isn’t going to become a holiday staple like “Christmas Vacation” or “Bad Santa.” It’s a handful of laughs and short escapism for those who don’t want to watch one of the Oscar hopefuls.

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