‘Office Christmas Party’ (2016) – 5/10


On Wednesday, I went to see ‘Office Christmas Party’. This is the new comedy directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, the comedy duo who directed ‘Blades of Glory’ (2007), which is one of my favourite Will Ferrell films. I was so excited to watch this, as I have not seen a Christmas film at the cinema this year yet. Nonetheless, I did have reservations about this film. From the adverts, I was expecting this film to either be ridiculously hilarious, full of brilliantly timed stupid one-liners (like ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ (2010)), or would flounder like the ‘Zoolander’ sequel (like ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, a second film was not necessary)!

On researching this film, I have found out that there was a solid writing team behind this movie. This included a writing team composed of Jon Lucas and Scott Moor (both of whom worked on ‘The Hangover’ (2009)), and an equally skilled screenwriting team, including Dan Mazer (a comedian who helped write screenplays for films like ‘Ali G Indahouse’ (2002), and ‘Borat’ (2006)). Consequently, I was happily surprised that the jokes in the advert were not the only jokes I found funny in the film – and I think this was mainly due to the strong team mentioned above.

‘Office Christmas Party’ is a film about just that, a Christmas party. The film begins with Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston), the CEO of Zenotek, threatening to close down her brother Clay’s (T.J. Miller) national branch if they do not exceed their predicted sales target by the end of the quarter – giving them 2 days to turn their figures around. Consequently, Clay, his Chief Technical Officer Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) and his genius technician Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) come up with a plan to help save their failing branch. They must rally their co-workers together to host an epic office Christmas party in order to impress a potential client and close a sale to save all their jobs and guarantee everyone’s promised Christmas bonuses. However, things turn for the worst when a colleague opens the party up to the general public, and the party starts getting out of hand.

‘Office Christmas Party’ was consistently funnier than half of me was anticipating it would be. I liked the bond between Clay and Josh (a brotherly bond where they both look out for each other in their own way), the cultural references (especially the Vin Diesel jokes), and the appearance of some of my favourite comedians, like Rob Corddry (as mentioned previously, I love ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’)! Overall the film was very entertaining, and definitely helped psyche me up for Christmas, like a Christmas film should. However, there are a few key factors where the film fell short of being a standout comedy for me.

Jason Bateman (who played Josh) arguably played the same character I have seen him play in most comedy/rom-coms he is featured in. He plays the fall back character (like in the television series ‘Arrested Development’), the loveable guy who could get along better alone, but chooses love and friendship over anything else, in spite of all the unpredictable hard times that may come with this (because he’s such a loveable guy). Nonetheless, I actually liked this. I liked the dynamic between Clay and Josh, and enjoyed what his characters’ traits brought to the table (despite having seen them before) – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?! Similarly, I thought that Jennifer Anniston (who played Carol) was playing a role similar to the role she played in ‘Horrible Bosses’ (2011). In this, she also plays the mean, annoying ‘bitch’ role, but is sexually provocative (as she plays a sex addict), which she does not bring to ‘Office Christmas Party’. In spite of having seen this side to her before, I really liked it. I thought she played the role well, and created a great tension that the film required, when she banned the Christmas party that Clay hosts regardless.

I felt that T.J. Miller was a good choice as a lead character. I liked his voice, his quick comebacks, and his overall demeanour. He plays Clay, a rich kid who dropped out of college and so was given his dad’s branch of Zenotek which unnerves his sister, who is the CEO. Consequently, there is a lot of hostility and rivalry between Clay and Carol, which Miller and Anniston execute brilliantly. He is a loveable idiot, who you cannot help but love.

Overall, I liked the acting, and I must say that from them, Kate McKinnon was my favourite. I did not really like her in ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016) – but then that was more of a reflection of my feelings about this remake, not her. If they are going to remake a classic, then they should think long and hard about which ones to choose (‘Ghostbusters’ (1984), in my opinion, should NOT have been one). I do not care that they got the backing from the original actors/writers, and that it is supposed to help feminism – I like the original because I like the film, not because it is arguably a male dominated film. Instead of recreating a cult blockbuster hit with a female cast, write a completely new film…

Anyway, in terms of the plot of ‘Office Christmas Party’, it was a little predictable, but it literally did what it said on the tin. They had a Christmas office party. Things got out of hand because they partied too hard, but they saved the day. Nonetheless, I applaud the writers’ efforts at trying to expand on this, and construct more of a plot than the audience just watching a bunch of characters get drunk in ridiculous scenarios. I liked that fact that they tried to give it more depth (by focusing on themes like family bonds), and created a Christmas spirit that is arguably required from a Christmas film.

On reflection, I feel that I was more excited by the film being Christmassy than the comedy side of it… As I have said, I was half expecting to be disappointed by this. Personally, I think that I prefer awkward comedies (like Ben Stiller movies), or stupid comedies with ridiculous one-lines (like ‘Borat’ or ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’), and I came out of the cinema noting that this film with neither (other than the fart jokes made by Kate McKinnon – I love toilet humour).  In all fairness, I felt that this Christmas party theme is quite a limited, closed-off theme – once you’ve seen one ridiculous scenario, its hard to top it. Similarly, I actually thought that certain scenes were just gross, and not funny. That being said, I liked the juxtaposition of reindeers, Santa, and Jesus smattered with coke, escorts and drug dealers – I just wanted something punchier/funnier to happen…. Nonetheless, it was a good effort at comedy, but I left the cinema feeling a little dirty (like effect that hangovers usually have on me, without having had the good time of being drunk). It made me feel slightly better and more uplifted than when I walked in (because it’s a Christmas film), but will not stand the test of time in terms of comedy films, and will just fade into the background like so many other comedy films that are churned out at this time of year. Definitely see it if you want a laugh, just don’t expect it to be a loud one.


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