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'Office Christmas Party' Film Review: More fun than the real thing, but that's not saying much

December 9, 2016Ben MK

Tis the season for holiday hijinks, but if you're like most people, there's one festive tradition that's both anticipated and dreaded — the annual office Christmas party. Thankfully, for those who would rather live vicariously, there's the aptly titled Office Christmas Party, a movie that depicts the ultimate workplace rager, multi-denominational holiday sweaters and all.

The plot is simple: T.J. Miller plays Clay Vanstone, the well-meaning but simple-minded President of the Chicago branch of a company called Zenotek, where he oversees a staff that includes Chief Technical Officer Josh (Jason Bateman), Lead Systems Engineer Tracey (Olivia Munn) and HR Manager Mary (Kate McKinnon). Clay's sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), on the other hand, isn't quite as jolly; and as the company's interim CEO, it's her job to make the tough business decisions, like shutting down her brother's entire office when they don't meet Zenotek's bottom line.

Of course, Clay and his fed-up and mostly underappreciated work force aren't ones to take this lying down, and if they're going to go out, then they'll definitely do so with a bang — by orchestrating the most epic, most memorably insane Christmas party Chicago has ever seen. But there's an even better reason for all this tinsel-themed mayhem, because if they can manage to impress a bigwig businessman named Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) in the process — thereby landing a coveted $14 million account — then they'll have effectively saved their jobs as well.

Cue the Christmas carnage, as directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck assemble an impressive list of comedic talent to round out the cast, including Miller's Deadpool co-star, Karan Soni, The Interview's Randall Park, Hot Tub Time Machine's Rob Corddry, 22 Jump Street's Jillian Bell and Trainwreck's Vanessa Bayer. And like Trainwreck, there's even a minor appearance by an NBA superstar. Although this time, it's not LeBron James, but rather the Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler, who makes much less of an impression than his Cleveland Cavaliers counterpart.

Yet, despite all the funny firepower that Office Christmas Party packs, the film never quite seems to find its footing, a problem that's only exacerbated by the multiple narrative tangents that screenwriting trio Justin Malen, Laura Solon and Dan Mazer veer off into. It's not so much an issue in the film's sleepy first half, but during its latter portion, keeping track of some of the movie's converging plot points becomes almost as challenging as untangling a mess of Christmas lights that's been left forgotten in a box in your garage for the past eleven months.

That being said, Office Christmas Party does manage to elicit its share of chuckles. However, when it does so, it's also evoking other movies. For example, a scene where Walter accidentally inhales a vast amount of cocaine before proceeding to liven up the party brings to mind Bobby Moynihan's character in Sisters, while a semi-dance-off between Mary and Corddry's character has shades of Neighbors. The result is mildly entertaining, but also wholly unoriginal and at times embarrassing. But perhaps that's Office Christmas Party's way of living up to its title.

Office Christmas Party releases December 9th, 2016 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 45 Mins.

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