By Jack Dignan
I went into this film not expecting much. I knew it wasn’t going to be that great, yet at the same time, part of me was actually a little bit hopeful. Part of me wanted to really, really like this movie, presumably because of the incredibly talented cast. I was hoping to find just a little bit of enjoyment in it, and perhaps my low expectations would’ve helped in that. Unfortunately not, as Office Christmas Party is not the super fun time at the movies that it had the potential to be.
Surprisingly, the plot for this film is more than just “yeah, these guys just party for 90 minutes,” as that’s pretty much what I was expecting this entire film to be. Thankfully, there’s actually a little bit of plot worked into it, centering on Josh Parker (Jason Bateman). He’s finally divorced after a year long separation, steadying into the single life. His boss and close friend Clay (T.J. Miller) is struggling to maintain their Internet Company, and Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Anniston) is threatening to shut them down. To keep the company afloat, they have to land a deal with a man named Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), and to win him over and show him what a great group of people they are, they throw a Christmas party in his honour. They invite him along, give him a tour and try to show him a good time.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I enjoyed this movie, but in its defense, it’s not the worst film imaginable. There have been a lot of movies this year that I enjoyed far less than I enjoyed this one, mostly thanks to the likeable and naturally funny cast. With Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Jennifer Anniston, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon and a massive group of minor cast members, it’s hard for this film to not be at least a tiny bit funny. And it is. From time to time I did find myself enjoying this movie, mostly through their smaller, less in your face gags. It’s when these actors are allowed to be themselves that I had the most fun with it.
Party movies can be very hit or miss. There are a few solid ones, such as Animal House or Suberbad, but there’s also more than a few not-so-good ones. I guess we could even consider Wolf of Wall Street a party movie to a degree, but for argument’s sake let’s just say it isn’t one. It’s a hard topic to nail, mostly because there’s not a lot you can really do with it. It’s just the actors having a super fun time with the events surrounding them getting more and more ridiculous, and it doesn’t always work. Office Christmas Party manages to make it work, at least in terms of plot. They’re not just throwing the world’s greatest party for the sake of a movie, and its increased ridiculousness is actually justified, which I liked. It doesn’t just get bigger and bigger for no apparent reason.
The film even manages to end on a fast paced, really dumb, but ridiculously fun finale. I wasn’t sure if it was too stupid to be funny, or stupid enough to be hilarious. It was constantly walking between the two lines, but it managed to be stupidly funny just enough times to work. However, it’s the rest of the film that isn’t really as funny. The jokes can work, but more often than not, they don’t. A lot of the humour is forced or familiar, and even comes off as really awkward some of the time, including the three or so fart jokes surrounding Kate McKinnon’s character.
It doesn’t seem to know what sort of humour it’s going for, and I think that’s the biggest problem with this movie. It’s too indecisive on what it wants to be, trying to appeal to a few different audiences and not combining together any of it all that well. Standouts include the always likeable T.J. Miller and Jason Bateman, and even occasionally Olivia Munn, but not everyone is as consistent as they are. Jennifer Anniston has a few solid lines, but her character was extremely uninteresting, and a lot of the supporting cast, while occasionally providing us with some chuckle-worthy moments, is familiar and boring.
To sum up, Office Christmas Party tries to use its absolutely hilarious cast as best as it can, but unfortunately that isn’t very good, leading to mixed results in an inconsistent, infrequently funny movie that, while likeable and fast, isn’t really that great.
2 1/2 Stars