The main problem behind “Office Christmas Party” is that it’s based on a false premise. In real life, an office Christmas party is something that nobody looks forward to or enjoys. At best, it’s a mandatory pit stop you endure before that other thing – you know, the party you actually wanted to attend – kicks into gear.
At worst, a depressing real life logic puzzle where booze is on hand to make your shitty, unbearable co-workers less shitty and slightly more bearable, but a nagging sense of professionalism keeps this sweet spot of drunkenness forever at bay.
Yet in “Office Christmas Party” it’s a highly anticipated event so beloved by the film’s cast of characters that its cancellation causes a near-revolt. It’s really hard to believe anyone would feel this passionate about a social gathering that replicates the ‘I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-hands’ awkwardness of being an adult at a children’s birthday party.
Apart from that unbelievable premise, “Office Christmas Party” fails because it’s mostly unfunny, lazy and feels like a Robert Altman film if Altman directed dude-bro comedies inexplicably made for that one aunt who tries to post “No Coffee No Talkee” memes on your Facebook page every morning.
In this meandering and predictable mess, T.J. Miller plays a dimwitted billionaire man-child who inherited the Chicago branch of his late father’s technology company Zenotek. He’s currently running it into the ground with weird needless extravagances like training dogs to deliver inter-office mail. Jennifer Aniston plays Miller’s sour scold of a sister, a character the filmmakers go out of their way to villainize but redeem in a sudden and unwarranted way in the film’s third act. She also happens to be Zenotek’s CEO and is canceling Miller’s Christmas party and planning to shut down his underperforming firm.
Of course, there is a catch.
If Miller can woo Courtney B. Vance, a client whose business will bring millions of dollars to the company, Zenotek will be saved. However, the only way to woo Vance is by throwing a totally bitchin’ rager of a Christmas party.
In several meaningless subplots, firm manager Jason Bateman, and tech-Wizard Olivia Munn, carry on an unlikely, chemistry-free office romance, “SNL’s” Vanessa Bayer attempts to find love among Zenotek’s collection of perverse weirdos and Kate McKinnon (one of the film’s few bright spots) plays the uptight head of H.R. who grows increasingly more unhinged as the film progresses.
At one point she farts. I’m sorry if your sides split so bad that you’re reading this from the hospital right now.
The strangest thing about “Office Christmas Party” is just how dated it feels. Resembling a hastily produced “Horrible Bosses” cash-in that was inadvertently shelved for five years, the film already looks like something you’d watch on a weekday afternoon on Comedy Central.
Clunky and bloated, everything in “Office Christmas Party” is telegraphed in the clumsiest way possible. Added fatigue sets in because Miller, Aniston, Bateman and Rob Corddry, as an overbearing Zenotek employee, are doing the bare minimum in the type of roles they’ve played too many times before.
But by virtue of “Office Christmas Party’s” 105 minute running time, funny moments do emerge courtesy of Jillian Bell’s chemically imbalanced pimp and Fortune Feimster’s oblivious Uber driver.
Aside from that, “Office Christmas Party” is as unmemorable as its generic title implies.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘Office Christmas Party’
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller
Director: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Weekender Rating: WW
Length: 105 minutes