Jennifer Aniston makes a really good villain.
In Office Christmas Party, she plays Carol Vanstone, the older sister of Clay (T.J. Miller) with a heavy case of sibling rivalry. Their father’s dead, Carol’s gunning to be CEO of his data corporation, Xenotech (competing with Dell and other big names), while Clay was given the branch their father ran and loved.
Dad was out of the old IBM playbook – someone who cared about his employees and treated them like family. However, Carol and the Board are out of today, and she’s come to Chicago to happily and vindictively tell her brother that she’s going to shut down his branch and fire everyone – two days before Christmas.
The heads of IT, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) and Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) are therefore trying to come up with a brilliant move to save the company. Tracey’s been working on an idea for 4 years that would mean you get the internet from any power source, including a light bulb (don’t ask, just roll with it) but it’s not ready yet.
So, in order to land their make or break in two days client, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) and his $14 million dollar account, they decide to throw the party of all parties in order to show him that they’re not the same as the other corporations – soulless money crunchers who couldn’t care less about the people they’re laying off to make their quarterly numbers – but that they’re family. Fun family.
The movie is more about Josh, however. His divorce is final and we’re following him the most. He’s your normal, decent Everyguy who’s the glue that holds this large group of employees together. That it’s the Chief Technical Officer who’s the personable guy who knows everyone and is the level head who’s able to interact smoothly with anyone and any personality type is, frankly, the movie’s funniest bit, even though no one laughs about this. (Other than me, the whole way through, but to myself.)
Josh and Tracey have unresolved romantic issues. Frankly, this movie, for all it’s definitely hard R nudity (we see boobs, butts, AND in a refreshing display of actual equal opportunity, penises), drug use (toking and blow), sex (in the background and discussed a lot, since we have a prostitute and her hilarious pimp as supporting characters), and slapstick violence (the Three Stooges have nothing on this party), the movie is, at its core, incredibly sweet.
Clay believes in his father’s ideals – that his employees are his family, and he’s put his money where his mouth is. Josh wants to take care of these people, too. Most of the characters are sweet people who are a little odd and a lot lonely. Of course, we have Carol, covering the mean, and there are some nasty guys who get their comeuppance. But even with that, a huge number of romances are created by the movie’s end, and even Carol has a Scrooge-reversal along the way.
Is it predictable? Of course it is, though there are a few surprises. But since there are no new stories under the sun, the question isn’t if the beats are all hit, but how they’re hit. Office Christmas Party hits all the beats and hits them well, with more laughs than you see in the trailers.
Despite Bateman, Munn, and Aniston all having great comedic chops, the supporting characters are where the real humor comes from. And make no mistake, in this movie, the main star is Bateman, and everyone else is supporting. But what support. It’s like Animal House only for this day and age in terms of amazing casting. Kate McKinnon (fantastic as always), Rob Corddry, Jillian Bell, Randall Park, Karan Soni, and Vanessa Bayer are just a few of the supporting cast, and they’re all hilarious. This is a cast that was allowed to improvise, and you can tell because some of the scenes in the trailer are different in the movie (though still funny) and we get outtakes at the start of the credits which are totally worth hanging around for.
Of course, the real question is: Is this comedy actually really funny or only funny in spurts? Is Office Christmas Party the next Hangover or Animal House, or did it fail to hit the Raunchy With Heart mark? Speaking for me, it scored high up into this category. I laughed all the way through (at one point, I laughed at a joke no one else seemed to get, but then, that’s the fun of a movie that has so many jokes you can miss some of them) and I left the movie theater happier than when I’d gone in. That’s what a comedy is supposed to do, and Office Christmas Party delivers.
If you’re looking for laughs this holiday season and you want a movie that will still make you feel that there are good people out there doing their best and succeeding, Office Christmas Party is for you.
Rating: 4 Stars
In OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY, when the CEO (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close her hard-partying brother’s branch, he (T.J. Miller) and his Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs.
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Courtney B. Vance, Vanessa Bayer, Jamie Chung, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Abbey Lee, Karan Soni
Screenplay: Laura Solon, Justin Malen
Directors: Josh Gordon & Will Speck