Thursday, 8 December 2016

Office Christmas Party

(MA15+) ★★★

Director: Josh Gordon & Will Speck

Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T. J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry.

McKinnon, Bateman, Miller and Munn get ready to party down.

THIS is how I presume this movie was pitched.

A group of writers walked into the office of Dreamworks Pictures, sat down and said: “Here’s the idea – the biggest, craziest office Christmas party ever”.

“I love it,” said the executive. “What’s it called?”

Office Christmas Party.”

“Brilliant. Here’s $45 million.”

And thus we have Office Christmas Party which, to be fair, does exactly what it says on the box. It promises crazy laughs at the expense of the most outrageously over-the-top work celebration you’ve ever seen, and on that front it delivers.

The plot leading up to and out of the titular shindig centres around a tech company branch run by popular party boy Clay (Miller), who is threatened with massive job cuts by his strict sister and interim chief executive Carol (Aniston).

In an effort to land a much-needed massive account and save the branch, Clay, his right-hand-man Josh (Bateman) and tech wizard Tracey (Munn) pull together the biggest bash possible in order to win over a prospective client (Vance).

The lack of effort put into the title almost extends to the plot, which is neatly scripted and flows well but is packed to the brim with every cliché you’d anticipate in a film called Office Christmas Party. On one hand, this means it doesn’t disappoint expectations, but on the other hand, there is a sense of deja vu as the film fails to exceed any expectations.

You could play Movie Party Bingo with this film. As happens with every movie in which someone throws “a party to end all parties”, everything is unimaginably awesome and everyone is having fun until it descends into chaos as the hedonism kicks in and the dark side of humanity comes to the fore. Someone will unknowingly take drugs. Someone will be horribly injured. Daring feats will be attempted. Enemies will make up and make out. Secret crushes will be revealed. The people trying to maintain civility will give in or succumb. There will be fires, water damage, violence, weird sexual encounters and gatecrashers.

Throw in the usual workplace stuff, a “save the company” countdown, and the somehow typical strippers/gangsters/pimps/drug dealers that end up in adult comedies, and it’s all a bit same-same.

But amid all this predictability and a line-up of characters that are largely clichéd (tough lady boss vs party boy boss, buttoned-down HR person desperate to cut loose, the under-appreciated secret heroes of the office, the nerd who can’t get a girlfriend), the saving graces are the laughs and the cast. As tiresome as the big party plot has become (see also Sisters, Project X, Animal House, The Party, Superbad etc) there is plenty of humour amid the shenanigans. Office Christmas Party at least has a pretty high hit-rate of gags.

This is partly down to the experienced comedic hands in the cast. Aniston, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her comedic chops, is great in an unlikeable role and owns most of the scenes she’s in. Bateman does what he always does (which is be funny) but has next to no chemistry with the usually great Munn, who is unfortunately the ensemble’s weakest link. Miller also does his usual schtick and is a good fit for bouncing off the comparative straightness of Bateman and Aniston. McKinnon, Corddry, Bell, Vance, Sam Richardson, Randall Park, and Karan Soni round out the cast nicely.

Office Christmas Party is kind of like a regular drinking session with your friends. You know what to expect, there are no real surprises, and there are probably more constructive and intelligent things you could be doing, but it’s pretty funny and you’ll have a good time.

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