Remember the days when Christmas movies warmed the heart and celebrated the season with sentiment and hope? This season’s offerings seem much more on the raunchy side if the upcoming Bryan Cranston-James Franco comedy Why Him? and Office Christmas Party are any indication. I will get into the former at a later date, but both movies are Christmas comedies that thoroughly land in harder R-rated territory, kind of like The Hangover with egg nog.
The thing that matters in the case of the generically titled Office Christmas Party is the laughs, though there aren’t nearly as many of them as in this season’s PG-13-rated Almost Christmas, which was blessed to have Mo’nique on board. This one is an ensemble-ly effort revolving around, you guessed it, an office Christmas party that seems like a cross of Hangover meets Die Hard meets Bachelor Party. The plot has Jennifer Aniston’s character, Carol, inheriting the title of interim CEO of her newly dead father’s tech company Zenotek. She’s a no-nonsense, no-fun kind of personality who decides to spread the holiday spirit by cancelling the company Christmas party, cutting the staff by 40% and losing all bonuses. Carol is at odds with her fun-loving, party loving, well-meaning but not-the-brightest-bulb brother, Clay (T.J.Miller), who waits until she goes on an out-of-town business trip and then puts the party plans back on.
Helping out are the company’s straight-laced chief technical officer Josh (Jason Bateman) as well as others including co-worker Tracey (Olivia Munn), with whom he would love to hook up since he is now in the midst of a divorce. Also around the office is Courtney B. Vance as a business-minded potential partner who could pour money into Zenotek if everyone plays their cards right. As these movies go, he accidentally gets sprayed with cocaine (don’t ask), and his new high turns him into the life of the party, which springs into action at the halfway point of the picture.
Add in other funny office types like Kate McKinnon playing the by-the-rules HR head who wears about as politically correct a Christmas sweater as you could ever find. Rob Corddry is a rather grouchy customer service rep, SNL‘s Vanessa Bayer has a naughty-but-nice scene in the child care center, and Deadpool’s Karan Soni plays a guy bragging to his co-workers that he dates a hot model when in fact he doesn’t. This sets up some of the biggest laughs in the movie when he hires a prostitute (Victoria’s Secret’s Abbey Lee) to be his date. Scenes where he deals with her “pimp” (played hilariously by Jillian Bell) really crackle. Props also to Fortune Feimster as an Uber driver who isn’t afraid to hand out advice on her first day on the job when she gives a ride to a captive Aniston. She’s a scene-stealer.
The party itself is the real centerpiece of the film directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, whose credits include the smartly entertaining The Switch, which also featured Aniston and Bateman, as well as Will Ferrell’s Blades of Glory. It is frantic and funny enough but not quite as outrageous as it could be. Blake Edwards pulled this kind of thing off better 50 years ago in the Peter Sellers comedy The Party.
There are six writers credited for the yuks on display including Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, who wrote, you guessed it, The Hangover. Producers are Guymon Casady, Daniel Rappaport and Scott Stuber. I have to confess I actually was entertained. It’s nice sometimes to see a movie with nothing much on its mind, and these guys know how to pull it off well enough after a slow start. Paramount releases the DreamWorks production today.
Do you plan to attend Office Christmas Party? Let us know what you think.