09th Dec2016

‘Office Christmas Party’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Jamie Chung | Written by Justin Malen, Laura Solon, Dan Mazer | Directed by Josh Gordon, Will Speck

office-xmas-party-poster

Josh Gordon and Will Speck, co-directors of one of, if not THE, greatest ice-skating comedy ever (Blades of Glory), re-team for another buddy comedy that once again mixes gross-out humour and heartfelt laughs – this time in a story set in the world of office politics. Think Animal House for the tech generation…

Reminiscent of last years The Night Before, Office Christmas Party is very much in the same vein: an ensemble cast in a crazy scenario, featuring raunchy comedy and some totally outrageous situations and it’s all set over the Christmas holiday season. It also shares a similar taste in songs, in fact the two films could switch out their old-school hip hop flavoured soundtracks and no-one would be the wiser. That’s not to say this is in any way derivative of the Seth Rogen starring film, far from it.

Office Christmas Party follows Clay Vanstone (Miller), the Chicago branch manager for Zenotek, an IT sales company. When Clay’s sister and CEO of the company, Carol (Aniston), threatens to shut his branch down due to the company not making enough profit, Clay and Josh (Bateman), his Chief Technical Officer, must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client (Vance) and close a sale that will save their jobs. Of course this being an R-rated comedy, it isn’t long before Clay and Josh’s plans – and the party – get way, way, waaaay out of hand!

Probably the most fun I’ve had watching an office comedy since Mike Judge’s Office Space, this is a great blend of slapstick comedy and feelgood humour, with a story that is – at its core – all about the family dynamic, in much the same way as Gordon and Speck’s ice-set comedy was. And much like the duos previous collaborations, which were filled with oddball characters that were essentially sweet-natured, Office Christmas Party lives and dies by its cast and this film is packed with wacky, but loveable, characters. Characters doing dumb, stupid and hilarious things: like 3D-printing their penises, doing way too many drugs, deep-throating ice statues and crossing paths with a psychotic female pimp – but they’re loveable nonetheless.

The core of this movie is the trio of Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller and Olivia Munn – in a role that shouldn’t work (she plays the companies tech-savvy coder who spends her time trying to reinvent internet access) but thanks to Munn leaving her more usual “ditzy” persona aside and also thanks the great chemistry she has wth Bateman, Munn manages to pull it off. And that’s the thing with Office Christmas Party – Josh Gordon and Will Speck seem to get the best performances out of each and even person in the cast, no matter how small the role.

From Rob Corrdy’s customer service manager, Jeremy, who hates Zenotech and most of the people in the company; including Zenotech’s HR woman Mary, played by the scene stealing Kate McKinnon. Well I say scene-stealing but McKinnon almost steals the entire movie as the strict, bird loving, mini-van driving, flatulent HR manager. It truly is a joy to watch her at work, she gives her all as she literally inhabits the character – if you’ve seen her work on Saturday Night Live you’ll know what I mean about her inhabiting her characters – and delivers a performance that blurs the line between acting and just plain crazy. Even comic Fortune Feimster, appearing in a small role as an Uber driver, gets her own memorable moment (CAROL! CAROL!)

A funny, touching, comedy this is one film that is sure to make quite a few peoples Christmas movie-watching lists in the future. Despite what other reviews have said, the only real disaster surrounding Office Christmas Party is the devastation at the Zenotech offices after the party ends!

Office Christmas Party in UK cinemas now.

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