A good portion of the populace can probably relate to that work holiday gathering we’d rather forget. Maybe one or several drinks too many. Perhaps a comment to a coworker that doesn’t seem wise later in the light of day. There’s a lot of funny directions you can go with the concept of Office Christmas Party, but the film mostly misuses them as it hurls in too many directions. The end result is one we’ll forget quickly after we’ve experienced it.
Director Will Speck and Josh Gordon give us their third major feature. It’s not as good as their first (Blades of Glory) nor as bad as their last (The Switch). The latter featured Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston and so does this. Bateman is chief tech officer of Chicago corporation Zenotech, a family business run by Aniston. She’s the unfriendly task master and bottom line efficiency expert that her employees are afraid of. Her brother (T.J. Miller) is the free spirit who runs the day-to-day operations. He’s not great at his job, but his minions adore him.
Tough financial times cause the possibility of the Windy City branch closing. Bateman and Miller decide to throw an all-out Yuletide bash in a last-ditch attempt to woo a big money client (Courtney B. Vance, last seen gloriously chewing scenery as Johnnie Cochran in “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson”). Here, instead of memorably defending America’s most notorious running back, he gets sprayed in the face with a snow machine filled with cocaine.
There’s plenty of R rated comedy as the employees let loose and there’s a lot of them and their subplots to keep up with. We have the single mom (Vanessa Bayer) looking for companionship (it’s one of the more humorous ones). There’s Bateman’s assistant (Olivia Munn) and their romantic tension (it’s one of the more boring ones). And supremely talented comedic actors like Kate McKinnon (who has her moments) and Rob Corddry are in the mix as well. Jillian Bell, who made a hilarious villain in 22 Jump Street, plays a drug dealer here and her inclusion is mostly wasted. The main plot involves the love/hate relationship between siblings Miller and Aniston and it doesn’t provide much (other than a chance to see the former “Friends” star berate a little girl in an airport).
With this cast, there are bound to be some decently humorous bits here and there, but Office Christmas Party might have been more successful with a little more focus among the ribaldry.
** (out of four)