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Office Christmas Party

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This movie has a funny cast of characters, but the problem is that it just gets so crazy and over the top, when a more restrained film would’ve worked better. Don’t get me wrong. The crazy party movies can work. I laughed myself silly at the shenanigans in Project X. Yet with side characters that can be so damn funny (Rob Corddry, for example), write them good lines instead of just having a bunch of craziness around that substitutes for humor. Just seeing a copy machine thrown out a window, or people having sex in a cubicle, doesn’t equal comedy. And neither do recycled gags (that would include the 3D printer used to make a penis, which we got in the hysterical Neighbors; or the photo booth photos in the closing credit, which we got in The Hangover).

The writer/director behind this is Josh Gordon. I was disappointed with his Blades of Glory, and The Switch (also starring Jason Bateman) could’ve been funnier. Yet this had more laughs than I expected. In this, he has Bateman playing a manager that works directly under T.J. Miller. He’s a comedian/actor that has always been funny when he comes into the Fox 5 studios, and I’m thrilled he’ll be hosting the Critics’ Choice Awards on December 11th.

He’s plays the CEO with a heart of gold. He likes to make his employees laugh, and wants to be generous with gifts and bonuses. When his sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) shows up, she tells them the Christmas party is off, and if they don’t improve their sales in the next few days, the branch will be closed. There’s one client that can put them over the top. He’s played wonderfully by Courtney B. Vance. Since he declines their deal, they try one last pitch. They want him to attend their office Christmas party, so he can get to know the staff. You can guess what’s going to happen, right? Well, that’s not the only predictable stuff. We can guess that a romance will blossom between Olivia Munn and Bateman (you see, he’s newly divorced). You know Corddry will say and do inappropriate things.

When Kate McKinnon (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters) shows up as the head of HR, with a politically correct holiday sweater, we know what goofiness we’ll be seeing from her. It’s also the same character she keeps playing, and it doesn’t truly show off her comedic chops. In many of these movies, she’d be funnier if it was taken down a notch. Yet that could be said about everything in this comedy.

One of the surprises was Randall Park (he played Kim Jong-Un in The Interview). He’s a bit awkward as he flirts with an office employee, and it goes in a funny direction.

Karan Soni, who was so terrific in the underrated Safety Not Guaranteed (also Deadpool and Ghostbusters), has a few fun moments as the nerdy tech guy who has lied about a girlfriend he has. When he hires an escort to come as his date…you can guess many of the directions that will go. Yet they were all pretty funny.

Jillian Bell, who was fun on Workaholics and stole the scenes in 22 Jump Street, is terrific in this. Telling you who she plays would ruin the fun.

For every gag that doesn’t work, there’s one that does. An orgy in a bathroom stall was amusing, and got funnier when Corddry opened the door and opted to join them.

There’s a jousting scene with Christmas trees that are on fire, which might be the third funniest jousting scene in movie history (behind the brilliant one in Bill Murray’s Quick Change, or Jim Carrey’s The Cable Guy).

I was expecting the movie to be funnier, but coming off the horrible comedy Almost Christmas, this had enough laughs and an interesting enough cast to make it worth seeing. It’s safe to say that audiences will love it; probably more than I did.

2 ½ stars out of 5.

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