The wave of improv-based raunchy comedies has been a constant over the past several years, but they often are relegated to one simple task: making us laugh. Seems like a no-brainer for a comedy, but this isn’t a compliment. It’s important that I laugh during a comedy, but its equally as important for jokes to feel like they matter. If they don’t matter, they don’t stick. Office Christmas Party is another one of those comedies that works because of its cast knowing how to tell a joke, but at the same time it doesn’t always work because the jokes aren’t particularly well done. But that doesn’t stop it from having a surprising amount of heart, in between the juvenile carnage and mildly offensive phallic jokes.
With a cast that could probably work miracles with any script given to them, Josh Gordon and Will Speck co-direct Office Christmas Party and attempt to give life to a film that seems born out of corporate greed. Inhabiting a lifeless office building is Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), who has just recently been divorced from his wife and is preparing to celebrate Christmas with his family. But before that, he’s got some time at work left. But when the CEO of the company he works at (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to close her brother, Clay’s (T.J. Miller) branch, Clay, Josh and Tracey (Olivia Munn) must work together to save the company. How do they decide to do it? Throw a crazy office Christmas party to woo a potential client that could easily save the branch.
The movie itself is exactly what you expect – a crazy cast of comedic actors play off each other in bizarre situations to varying results. From SNL cast members like Vanessa Bayer to Kate McKinnon, to some of the best actors in comedy today like Randall Park, T.J. Miller, Rob Corddry, Jillian Bell, and Sam Richardson. This is definitely a fantastic cast ripe for comedies. By far the two stand outs are Miller and McKinnon who work magic with some terrible jokes just because they know that delivery matters as much as any other part of the joke. The two straight-laced anchors of Office Christmas Party are arguably the two biggest names of the film: Bateman and Aniston, both of whom feel out of place whenever they try to crack jokes. They also have been in several movies together, including Gordon and Speck’s previous film, The Switch. In that, they also failed to muster many laughs despite being the two leads of the film.
Why Office Christmas Party works better than the duo’s previous film is because its major character is one that demands a support group. Clay is the boss everyone wishes they had, with a relationship with his sister that threatens to tear him apart both financially and emotionally. He needs friends and family. He needs high morale to keep him steady. Which is such an astonishing thing for a film like this to capture. I’m still not convinced the main character was intended to be Clay from the outset since the film opens with Josh, has several scenes of Josh’s character development, and then focuses on his relationship with Clay. But the movie works best with Miller’s charisma and his plight than it does with Josh who serves as a generic character written perfectly for Jason Bateman to inhabit.
But you’re not coming to Office Christmas Party for its secretly heartfelt moments. You’re here for some of the best in comedy going absolutely insane to as much loud music as possible. How many montages of excessive drinking and dancing can you fit in this film? More than enough. There’s some raunchy scenes that the film’s cast is never afraid to contend with, but its often the darker subject matter that gets the film its laughs. A weird dominant-submissive/mother-son relationship subplot is just one of those oddly disturbing but played for laughs moments that works well. However, they’re so few and far between that it doesn’t make up for some terrible plotting and a film that just doesn’t really feel the need to rise much above the competition.
If you want to talk to me about the Blu-ray though, I think there’s surprisingly plenty here for those who somewhat enjoy the film. Even me, who thinks its pretty average, loved most of the commentary track included with the theatrical version of the film. Gordon and Speck don’t spend too much time explaining how it was to be on set, but more on why they kept things the way they did. There’s also plenty of funny, interesting tidbits that you’ll discover like Justin Theroux having drawn an incestuous drawing for the film (my personal favourite tidbit of the commentary). Of course, with a movie like this there is definitely a behind the scenes featurette that looks at the filming of the movie, as well as outtakes because when you get that many comedians in a room, you’re bound to get a lot of jokes that don’t make it in the film. Kind of a bummer that there was always a joke in the outtakes for a scene that I thought was better than the joke they went with.
The least noteworthy addition is an extended version of the film that tacks on an extra five minutes that is unnecessary. The 105 minute runtime was already pushing itself, especially once the movie leaves its Christmas party behind in favor of a plot that feels tacked on in a way that only movies like this can tack it on. Office Christmas Party is an okay movie that only justifies its existence through an impressive cast that can hold their own, regardless of a script. Those looking to write comedy will probably find a decent amount of enjoyment from the commentary tracks, and fans of the actors will enjoy the Outtakes a lot. But this is definitely not a must-watch or must-own film.
A review copy was provided by Paramount Pictures.
Office Christmas Party Blu-ray
- The film has a heart that is surprisingly endearing
- T.J. Miller serves as a great, unintentional protagonist
- What a cast!
- Commentary track is filled with neat tidbits and writing tips
- Lots of outtakes from great actors
- Actors are relied on to save bad jokes
- Very run-of-the-mill comedy
- Extended Cut is pointless
- The laughs don't happen as often as the film thinks they do