Jacob Bock ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Office Christmas Party as a movie is one on the binary scale. The story revolves around the tech company Zenotech’s Chicago branch, run by fun loving manager Clay Vanstone (TJ Miller). There is trouble in paradise when Clay’s sister and Zenotech’s ruthless CEO/Scrooge archetype, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), threatens to cancel Christmas bonuses and shut the branch down. The last hope for the office is to close a momentous business deal with a potential client Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). Mr. Davis is reluctant to do business with Zenotech, which has an infamous reputation due to Carol’s cut throat policies. Clay aims to convince him otherwise. To save the branch and close the deal, Clay and his employees must throw the wildest Christmas party of an epoch.
The movie opens with chief technical officer, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) quipping “It’s the season for giving” in response to losing half his money in a recent divorce. The film is full of this punchy sarcastic humor. The plot is always moving with no scenes that drag on, although it is often bogged down with crude, low brow humor: deep throating eggnog from a phallic ice sculpture, 3D printed penises, and Jeremy (Rob Corddry), who only seems to exist for unfunny sexual one-liners. However, the film is also an insightful critique of modernization. It touches on a lack of job security in white collar professions, automation replacing labor positions, and parenting in our tech-obsessed generation.
The office party itself is fun to watch. The DJ plays a fair amount of old school hip-hop and 90’s throwbacks. There’s all the makings of a good party: sex, drugs, and Jesus riding a horse to Iron Maiden. Zenotek’s employees really find creative ways to test the limits of the company’s HR code, enforced by uptight office spoil-sport Mary (Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon).
The smaller character arches are downright hilarious. Case in point, Karan Soni whose character resorts to desperate measures to make good on the boasts of his imaginary hot girlfriend. He hires an escort (Victoria Secret model Abbey Lee) to pose as his date to the party. Workaholic’s Jillian Bell plays a hilariously unhinged pimp whose smile goes from merry to psychotic on a dime. SNL’s Vanessa Bayer makes out with the wrong guy who has a strange fetish in the office daycare center, and cocaine is sprayed out of a snow machine.
Unfortunately the primary arches of the story fall a little flat and aren’t as interesting. With such a great cast of comedic actors it would have been great to see them let loose from the rigidity of the script. There are a few improvisational scenes such as Miller’s character declaring he has “a BFA in Canadian Film Theory with a concentration in Drake” that are the highlights of the movie. It’s disappointing that more actor improvisation didn’t make the cut considering the endless potential of the cast. That’s Office Christmas Party in a nutshell: funny, but could have been funnier.
Overall Grade: C
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