A Performance Review of OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Many are going to assume that Office Christmas Party is a stupid comedy…and they’re going to be right. Although Office Christmas Party is far from being the stupidest of stupid comedies, it’s still pretty stupid. However, this is the kind of stupid that actually works, mainly because it has been made by people who know how to make the most moronic of comedies not only palatable, but downright enjoyable. The filmmakers do this by conjuring up one of those “everything but the kitchen sink” sort of scripts and employ enough comedy pros, both famous and not-so famous, to make the majority of the multitude of jokes hit home.

In Office Christmas Party, the Chicago branch of a corporation named Zeno Tech is struggling according to the company’s CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston). Despite assurances from Carol’s brother Clay (T. J. Miller), the branch president, senior officer Josh (Jason Bateman) and head programmer Tracey (Olivia Munn), it looks like their branch will be shut down unless they can land a multi-million dollar account from wealthy businessman Walter (Courtney B. Vance). In an effort to do this, the trio invite Walter to their company’s annual Christmas party, which Carol previously shut down but which the others have decided to go through with. What starts out as an innocent office gathering quickly spirals out of control in the most outrageous and hilarious ways.

As stated above, and greatly evidenced by the trailer, Office Christmas Party is one of those comedies which offers up everything but the kitchen sink. Reindeer, cocaine, the best rendition of DJ Kool’s Let Me Clear My Throat in years, and a highly entertaining car chase through downtown Chicago all make up some of the film’s most memorable sequences. Yet what Office Christmas Party has going for it the most of all is its collection of offbeat characters. There’s female security guard Carla (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who wants to be Die Hard’s John McLane, which is played wonderfully alongside Randall Park’s Fred, who is suffering from MAJOR mommy issues, both of whose scenes are wonderfully interspersed with Abbey Lee’s prostitute Savannah, who entered into her profession due to fond memories of watching Pretty Woman with her mother. They may have been intended strictly for laughs, but Office Christmas Party’s vast collection of misfits is the kind of people that make the proceedings more than worthwhile.

It was hard not to be carried away, and in some ways, even inspired by the “to hell with it” attitude that carries throughout the film in terms of the many sub-plots, the filmmakers’ overall approach, and the way both resonate with its target audience. Speaking of audiences, one of the best things about Office Christmas Party was how it caters to so many kinds of demographics. In an age where so many aspects of society focus squarely on millennials or gen X-ers, here comes a movie like Office Christmas Party, which so cleverly recognizes everyone’s frustration with their current day to day, regardless of age or background, and calls upon their need to rid themselves of said frustrations on what is, for many, the most mentally draining time of the year with an assortment of colorful characters in one deliriously outlandish situation after another.

Office Christmas Party gives its large cast a prime chance to shine, no matter who the actor is. Everyone, from Jennifer Aniston’s bitchy CEO crushing a bratty child’s Christmas hopes to Fortune Feimster’s uproarious Uber driver, gets the chance to be the star of some well-executed comedic moments. Special attention should be given to a number of specific cast members such as Jillian Bell, who makes her unhinged female pimp character the film’s standout, Kate McKinnon, who, as the uptight head of HR, makes even a fart joke elicit laughs, and Vance, who, as the only cast member without a comedy background, holds his own here and happily takes the opportunity to cut loose.

It’s tough to say where Office Christmas Party falls on the Christmas movie scale. Despite a few jokes which don’t work and handful of others which go on a tad bit longer than necessary, the film’s humor is not as absurd as previous duds such as Christmas with the Kranks and Deck the Halls. However, its also safe to say that the movie won’t have the staying power of something like Bad Santa or the still-stupefyingly popular Jingle all the Way. Yet Office Christmas Party retains such a pulsating energy in it’s “give it everything ya got” mentality that makes it hard not to want to join in the fun.

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the author

Frank Calvillo lives in Austin, TX and has been in love with movies ever since his father showed him some Three Stooges shorts when he was five years old. Today he loves all kinds of film, regardless of era, country, budget or genre. He believes every film has an audience and is at least one person's favorite movie. His ultimate goal is to write a script for his boyhood crush, Michelle Pfeiffer. Twitter: @frankfilmgeek