Three screenwriters, three story developers, and two directors─the people responsible for The Hangover, Blades of Glory, and Borat. Plus Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, and even Johnnie Cochran himself, People vs. OJ’s Courtney B. Vance.
And they still can’t keep Office Christmas Party from feeling like a two-minute Saturday Night Live sketch that should have never been made, much less stretched into a full-length film. (The inspiration actually was a 2015 SNL digital short, and a pretty good one at that.)
So…bummer, right? The Office Christmas Party trailer looked hella good, and certainly there’s no more fertile fodder for a punch-drunk (emphasis on “drunk”) comedy than the annual non-denominational holiday place-of-employment mixer.
But exactly how many more movies do we need with Bateman playing the mirthless straight (as in not funny) man, with Aniston screwing on four-inch stilettos and marching around like a stormtrooper, and with alcohol-induced revelry nearing biblical proportions (both in destruction and lack of originality)?
The sad thing is (as if all that weren’t sad enough) that there are plenty of isolated moments and peripheral characters that showed immense promise. But for every hilarious Tarzan-like, Christmas-light swing that ends in a file cabinet faceplant there’s a dozen lazy, telegraphed moments. Like that time when two people go up to the roof and (oops!) the door locks behind them. Oh dear, I wonder if they’ll have a moment of self-discovery during this quiet time?
The only thing more ridiculous is if an employee had been lying to skeptical co-workers about his model-hot girlfriend, and then be forced to hire a prostitute to “prove them wrong”. Oh wait, we get that, too.
Surely though, that whiplash-inducing random conversation two people have about wanting to try to jump a car across an open drawbridge won’t come back into play at the end of the film, will it? Yes. Yes it will.
There is a plot here (paper-thin though it may be). Aniston is Carol, ruthless and petty CEO of a tech company. Brother Clay (Miller) runs the Chicago branch. She wants to shut him down, since daddy loved Clay more than her. Clay’s a lovable loser and wants to save all his friends’ jobs, so he invites big-time prospective client (Vance) to the party. Bateman and Olivia Munn play the boring, soon-to-be love interests who bring down the movie every second they’re on screen. And Kate McKinnon is the company’s HR rep.
The rest of the movie (which is most of it) is nothing but people having orgies in bathroom stalls, 3-D printing body parts, and causing so much destruction it’s unfathomable that not only police, fire, and rescue weren’t called, but that somehow the National Guard and SWAT missed it, too.
The longer the party goes, the more it careens off the rails, and the same can be said for the movie itself. Over the course of an hour and forty-five minutes, you’ll laugh a half-dozen times (mostly at Jillian Bell as a whack-a-doo pimp and Fortune Feimster as the world’s best Uber driver), but the rest of the time you’ll see punchlines coming from a mile away and then want to run for the doors as the gang of misfits gets its stuff together to save the day (via the most wildly impossible bit of technological wizardry ever seen in a movie) and then melt the cold, dead heart of the ruthless, horrible boss.
The only thing we’d need then would be a blooper reel over the end credits to give us a couple good laughs in the hopes we would forget the idiotic film we just sat through. Oh wait. Yup, there it is.