Maybe it’s the holiday spirit jingling my bells, or my appreciation of an office party gone absurdly out of control (as a cubicle drone, I understand such a fantasy), but Office Christmas Party hits the dankest, dopest celebration notes. Does it break storytelling boundaries or re-write tradition? Hell no. Co-workers freak, fight and let their inhibitions strike fear into HR representatives to a degree that only extravagant dollar signs and Hollywood influence can miraculously achieve. It’s the kind of sexy, sinful yuletide action that would land you on Santa’s special naughty list, moronic in reality, yet drunkenly jolly enough to light the f#%kin’ candle this Xmas season.
T.J. Miller plays Clay Vanstone, the son of Zenotek’s recently deceased CEO and newly appointed Branch Manager to his father’s favorite office. He’s the fun-loving boss who cares for each employee like family – basically the opposite of his sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who’s currently operating as interim CEO.
According to Carol, Clay’s office isn’t posting healthy enough numbers, so she’s cutting 40% of jobs and nixing bonuses. Clay demands one last chance, claiming that potential client Walter David (Courtney B. Vance) would score them a $14 million signature, but after a brief lunch meeting, Walter remains uninterested. As a last-ditch effort, Clay invites Walter to Zenotek’s annual Christmas party (that Carol previously cancelled), all in the name of business. Or at least, that’s how it starts…
When we first pass Zenotek’s security entrance, everything seems predictably in order. Jason Bateman’s newly divorced Josh Parker plays a straight-laced voice of reason to Miller’s man-child Clay, and then immediately chokes on romantic tension with Olivia Munn’s Tracey Hughes. He can’t commit, Tracey works under him, it’d be a sticky situation – you’ve seen it before.
Much like how you’ve seen Kate McKinnon play a crazy cat lady (or parrot lady), as her HR head Mary passes out violations while wearing a “non-denominational” sweater covering all possible winter holidays (including boxing day). Vanessa Bayer balances sweet with psychotic, Randall Park plays awkwardly oblivious, a tech guy (actor Karan Soni) desperately tries to secure a bombshell party date – after the first opening scenes, Office Christmas Party seems like another comedic blemish on 2016’s failing record.
Then Courtney B. Vance gets a shotgun blast of coke to the face, and Clay turns Zenotek’s Christmas party up to dystopian levels of holly-strung Mad Max proportions.
Once directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck embrace pornographic levels of R-rated adult office partying, laughs bellow deeper and harder. Characters turn loose as the night’s chaos climaxes aggressively, fuelled by water coolers labeled “Tequila/Vodka/Gin” and can pyramids of Bud Light (sweet, sweet product placement). Clay spares no expense for the office-destroying bash, which means that Jeremy (Rob Corddry) can be seen sitting on a replica Iron Throne while holding a real rented baby, Joel (Sam Richardson) aka DJ Calvin gets to have an orgy in a bathroom stall and some dude elevates the body-part copier gag by sticking his dong in a 3D printer among other nefarious deeds. Drunkards joust with decorated Christmas trees, nude body parts breathe freely and live animals drink from toilets – Office Christmas Party approaches Hangover levels of absurdity, but commits fully to a garland-strung rager beyond rational doubt.
T.J. Miller often draws flak for portraying the same bumbling buffoon arcs time and time again, but where Search Party clips his wings with obscenities, Office Christmas Party offers a sincere depth to Clay’s passionate treatment of his co-workers. He strikes a fun-loving chemistry with Bateman’s focused hard-worker, who in turn passes the same connection to Munn’s programmer genius/love interest (a relationship that’s handled quickly and cleanly).
There’s never prolonged dramatics for any romantic establishments come to think about it, which allows the odd-jobs and lunatics to reign over Zenotek like drugged-up savages. Corddry does seem a bit wasted besides his Iron pose, and Aniston gets stuck recycling the same bitchy wet-blanket comments, but someone like Vance draws tremendous laughs while going ape-shit bonkers under eggnog ice luges and on karaoke dance stages.
Listen, there are some funny dudes in Office Christmas Party, but the ladies leave more of a lasting impression versus their gender counterparts. Does that even come as a shock with McKinnon in the fold, though? Jillian Bell waves her gat around as a night-and-day pimp to some humorous acclaim, but McKinnon – well, she might be the only comedian to challenge Will Forte’s stranglehold on facial reaction comedy.
When she’s got a stick up her ass, McKinnon’s mousy goody-goody scolds employees like an HR fascist, but once she pulls her dress down and shows a little shoulder (just one, of course), she’s the unpredictable, bald-gangster-kissing fart machine we so hoped she’d turn into. Olivia Munn represents a better character than source of unstable humor, but that’s fine considering how the hilarious Kate McKinnon overplays every situation until laughs break the silence.
Despite having a knack for zero subtlety (plot follows an undaring, predictable arc), Office Christmas Party is filled with enough “ho ho hos” and “ha ha has” to keep audiences entertained by a white, wet and wild wonderland rave. It’s every company man-or-woman’s dream showing of corporate appreciation, followed by anarchistic hedonism that eventually leads to thematic messages of family bonds and irreplaceable friendship (can’t be Christmas without warmed hearts!). Have at this mature Merry Christmas from Paramount Pictures, just don’t let Santa catch you watching it!
Office Christmas Party is a naughty Xmas comedy stuffed with enough ho-ho-hos and ha-ha-has to corrupt this holiday season.