The festivities are coming in thick and fast now. As we approach the halfway point of December, the only other seasonal flick that’s passed cinema screens has been the unfortunate sequel to Bad Santa. So unless your local is screening a Christmas gem from yesteryear, all our hopes lie with Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s Christmas comedy caper Office Christmas Party, sporting a stellar comedic cast that ignites unusual optimism in regards to the usual woes of Christmas-related entertainment.
When uptight CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to close her brother’s (T.J. Miller) branch that was bestowed upon him by their late father, Clay vows to throw an epic Christmas party in the office for his loyal members of staff as well as land a client that will potentially save them. When word gets out, however, the party gets a little out of hand.
Gordon and Speck team again with their The Switch cast members Aniston and Jason Bateman (the fourth film for the two stars) amongst a handful of Hollywood’s most sought after talents that specialise in ably rendering a decent giggle or two. T.J. Miller is fresh out of Deadpool territory, Bateman is his usual self, sporting enough dry humour to fulfil a career, Kate McKinnon’s just relinquished her proton pack (until the sequel, of course) and Jillian Bell’s pimp mamma is nothing short of her capabilities as a screen-stealing highlight. Mixed with a generally decent plot, Office Christmas Party is off to a roaring start.
Aniston’s voracious, business-headed Carol benefits from Aniston’s quick-witted delivery, and on par with her hyper-sexualised dentist in Horrible Bosses. Whilst it may seem like this is a narrow character arc for one actress to partake, it’s one that fits Aniston so well you almost want to enforce a rule that denies any possibility of her returning to roles in romantic comedies (ahem, Mother’s Day). She, alongside McKinnon and Bell are the film’s greatest assets, that amongst a wonderfully dressed Chicago that feels authentic as it glows with Christmas cheer.
Office Christmas Party does, however, grow repetitive come the halfway mark, a running theme with this year’s irresponsible-adults-go-crazy kind of schtick. Bad Neighbours had the chemistry in the bag and Bad Moms had the feminist vibe down. The screenplay for Office Christmas Party, sadly, squanders a lot of the fun intended with the desire to lay their client (Courtney B. Vance), and therefore never feels as outlandishly fun as it sets out to be or even thinks it is. Bateman and Olivia Munn’s romance feels incredibly forced in between moments of complete mayhem; the hackneyed sentimentality creeping in in the most excessive and most common fashion notable to most if not all Christmas-related fare.
There were endless opportunities for this R-rated seasonal comedy to be outrageous enough to be one of the year’s best comedies. And with a cast as hopeful as this, it demands attention for their talents alone. But with a script that stops and starts all too frequently for it to be consistently humorous, Office Christmas Party wavers between entertaining and irritating with the insertion of Aniston and Bell’s screen time that ultimately proves as the talent you truly want to see.
Dir: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Scr: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, Dan Mazer
Cast: Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, Jennifer Aniston, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Abbey Lee
Prd: Guymon Casady, Daniel Rappaport, Scott Stuber
Music: Theodore Shapiro
DOP: Jeff Cutter
Runtime: 105 minutes