REVIEW: ‘Office Christmas Party’ is the work thing you should attend

Office Christmas Party is a balls-to-the-copier-machine (at times literally) Christmas bundle of inappropriate mayhem.

Yes, it follows a formula that’s become pretty standard for ensemble comedies. And yes, familiar actors fall back on familiar schticks here. No one’s really stretching themselves, acting-wise.

But the collection of characters is so funny and the performers so talented that it doesn’t matter. If you give it a chance, by the time the credits roll you’ll wish your workplace threw parties like this.


What’s it about?

The Office Christmas Party at Chicago’s branch of Zenotek used to be an epic affair. At least, that how current branch manager and son of the company’s late founder Clay (T.J. Miller, Deadpool) remembers it.

People got drunk, the office got trashed, and his dad dressed up in a Santa suit and threw gifts from the second floor balcony. What was important was that the boss treated his people like family.

Things are, of course, much tamer now, and morale is the worse for it. In fact, no one at the office looks forward to the harmless afternoon wine-and-cheese mixer that HR manager Mary (Kate McKinnon) has signed off on.

As if that wasn’t demoralizing enough, in walks Clay’s older sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), the company’s interim CEO. Carol’s line is simple: the branch is failing. Thus, no bonuses, no Christmas party, and oh yeah, people will lose their jobs the day before Christmas.

One thing might save Christmas for Zenotek Chicago, however. If Clay can land a multi-million dollar account the branch is set to pitch to, nobody gets fired.

To orchestrate this holiday miracle, Clay calls on Chief Technical Officer Josh (Jason Bateman) and Lead Systems Engineer Tracey (Olivia Munn). When their pitch to their disillusioned prospective client (Courtney B. Vance) fails, however, true inspiration strikes.

The client thinks Zenotek is just another soulless corporate monolith. Why not show him that’s not the case with the party to end all parties?

So begins a night that will be forever remembered in company party lore. Encounters with live reindeer, Bed Bath & Beyond shopping, gun-toting pimps, and illicit substances shot out of snow machines are just a few of the evening’s highlights — the rest you’ll have to see for yourself.

Office Christmas Party one-sheet

Ensemble puts things over the top

Office Christmas Party benefits tremendously from its large cast of comedy veterans.

Leading the way are Bateman and Aniston, who have each carved out niches for themselves as “Designated Straight Man” and “Queen of Mean”, respectively in recent years. This is the fifth collaboration between the two (The Break-Up, The Switch, Horrible Bosses and Horrible Bosses 2), and that experience shows. Though the two only share a handful of scenes, their chemistry is undeniable.

Miller also shines as the charismatic man-child Clay, while Olivia Munn shows off her solid rom-com chops as Bateman’s partner-in-office-competence, matching him and his patented deadpan delivery step for step.

Arguably, though, the most memorable characters in Office Christmas Party are the folks in the background. McKinnon just gets funnier as the film goes on, while Rob Corddry, Jillian Bell (The Night Before, 22 Jump Street), and yes, Courtney B. Vance all deliver laugh-out-loud moments.

Put more simply, there’s not a weak link in this ensemble chain. By film’s end, you’ll wish you got to party with these people.

Formulaic? Oh, lighten up. It’s Christmas

Does Office Christmas Party hold up to really tight scrutiny as far as plotting and film making? Of course not.

The film’s structure is formulaic, sure. The plot, especially its third act, feels wholly contrived and artificial. And by the end it might feel, even at just 105 minutes, as though the party’s gone on too long.

Honestly, going into a movie like this, none of that should matter. In fact, much of those aforementioned “issues” don’t stand out unless you’re looking for them.

Worth seeing?

By all means, if you need a laugh or a lot of laughs to get through the holiday season, see Office Christmas Party. Like last year’s The Night Before, it earns itself a place on that “watch it every Christmas” list of movies.

That is, as long as you like your Christmas movies profane, boozy, and occasionally drug-addled.

If that’s not usually your thing, have a well-spiked egg nog and give it a try, anyway. You may regret it, but you’ll never forget it.

Office Christmas Party

Starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Vanessa Bayer, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Sam Richardson, Randall Park, with Kate McKinnon and Jennifer Aniston. Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon.
Running Time: 105 minutes
Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity.

Felix Albuerne
Felix Albuerne
One-time Blockbuster Video manager, textbook editor, trivia host, and community college English/Humanities teacher. Now a digital media producer, part-time film critic, amateur foodie, semi-retired beer snob, unabashed geek, and still very much a work in progress.