Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Ensemble comedies where EVERYONE is amazing often play out this way, and Office Christmas Party, which has one of the funniest casts ever on paper, is sort of like that. The expectations can't help but be insanely high when the holiday ensemble is led by Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, TJ Miller, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Jillian Bell, Rob Cordrry, and so many more hilarious stars it's like Santa came early. But finding a way to give all of those people their due proves tougher than coming into work on Monday after the office holiday rager.
Like so many comedies in recent years this is another movie about blowing off some steam, and in today's frantic work environment one way to do that is with the holiday Christmas party. Always a disaster but usually on a small scale, it's amplified by directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon (who worked with Bateman and Aniston on The Switch), although not nearly to the degree the trailers would have you think. While there are no shortage of rowdy moments, the plethora of meaningless subplots can be a real party pooper.
Nobody's coming to Office Christmas Party for an abundance of plot, but they'll find that they're getting too much of one anyway. Basically, Miller plays Clay, the irresponsible dufus head of Zenotek, a failing tech firm full of your average everyday office drones. Bateman is Josh, who is freshly divorced and itching for a shot at his sexy colleague Tracy (Munn), The company's poor numbers Clay's scrooge of a sister Carol (Aniston) and company CEO threatening to shut the branch down and cancel Christmas bonus. And the company party they were planning is definitely off. But all can be saved if they can sign a $14M deal with fuddy duddy client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) before he leaves town. Their best idea to impress the potential business partner? Invite him to the party they weren't supposed to be throwing anyway! And if you've seen any kind of party movie in your life, in particular Project X, you know it's going to get crazy out of control when practically the entire city of Chicago shows up.
When unrestricted by demands of the plot Office Christmas Party lives up to every ounce of potential, and with this cast that potential is incredible. You can't go a scene without running into another showstopper, from TJ Miller's unhinged, sophomoric antics to Jillian Bell as a maniacal gun-wielding pimp who blackmails office nerd Karan Soni with one of her gals (model/actress Abbey Lee). Vanessa Bayer does what she always does and makes the most of a limited role as a single mom who turns to the wrong co-worker (Randall Park) for some frisky fun. An extended montage complete with runaway Jesus and a cocaine-addled Vance swinging from the rafters is everything Office Christmas Party promised to be and more. The only downside is the lack of defining character for the super-talented McKinnon, whose office stickler Mary Winetoss is way too reserved with the exception of her ugly holiday sweaters. She would have been better off in the Bell role, I think. Aniston, who seems to do some of her best and most outlandish work alongside Bateman, really dive into her Krav Maga butt-kicking role. Although you'd have to be drunk on the Christmas egg nog to think Bateman and Munn shared a lick of romantic chemistry. While definitely rowdy the film isn't offensive by any stretch. Drinking, drug use, sex, more drinking, some gunplay...you get all of it in a fashion that's clean enough for the holidays. Strip away all of the naughty and Office Christmas Party still aims to make the nice list.
Rating: 3 out of 5