Office Christmas Party
Times have sure changed. Back in the day, it was perfectly possible to take the entire family along to a Christmas film: sweet, sentimental movies where the importance of kindness and family spirit was positively reinforced. James Stewart excelled at these – making two of the best, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Shop Around the Corner – but if he was about nowadays, he’d likely appear on our screens fellating a statue, or simulating sex with a reindeer. For the amicable Christmas feature has warped into the rambunctious Christmas “comedy”, which still retains its basic sentimental spirit, but has replaced such virtues as, say, character and plot with profane rants against political correctness.
Office Christmas Party has been released alongside Bad Santa 2, and both are predictably lazy and cash-driven – though the former, at least, boasts a more naturally funny cast, who manage to somewhat elevate the thin material. Admittedly, Jason Bateman is soulless as protagonist Josh – his smarmy, untrustworthy qualities as an actor are always better suited to villainous roles – but there’s good casting of Olivia Munn as spiky tech expert Tracy, TJ Miller as man-child boss Clay, and the always delightful Kate McKinnon as uptight HR manager Mary. When their lax office routine is interrupted by Clay’s CEO sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who threatens to shut down their branch unless they can bag rich client Walter Davies (Courtney B Vance), they plan to throw a huge office Christmas party in order to impress him.
From the Project X-themed advertising, one would expect a film of this sort to feature off-the-scale craziness. But the disappointing thing about Office Christmas Party is that it plays things fairly safe. Familiar tropes of edgy American comedies – copious drug use, jokey portrayals of criminals, swearing at children, extensive homophobia – are ticked off with regularity. And there is something inevitable about the way that its climax turns into an action movie, as if comedy is not enough to maintain momentum.
Half the cast are Saturday Night Live alumni, so directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck frequently score laughs by pointing the camera at them and letting them improvise. And Office Christmas Party does, at least, manage to lightly tickle the funny bone for at least half its running time. But it’s indicative of the dire place that American comedy is in, all loutish bluster with no true commitment, sincerity or passion.
Office Christmas Party is released nationwide on 7th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for Office Christmas Party here: