Friday, December 9, 2016 8:15 am ·  0 Comments
It’s extreme. It’s authentic. Office Christmas Party builds momentum from a surprisingly believable downtown office into a wild, frantic shindig. But the even more pleasant surprise is the lack of cheap, juvenile humour and strong dramatic structure.
Ultimately, however routine and smart the movie is, there’s still enough twists (both welcome and deterring) that reflect the month of December eerily well. There are parallels between what we expect the holidays to be like, and the crazy things that end up happening, even when we don’t want them to.
I guess that means it’s Christmas time.
The plot is just what the marketing suggests. A mid-size internet company in Chicago is throwing their annual Christmas party, greeted with enthusiasm from some and Grinch-like sneers from others.
It’s when the bosses (the crisp, humorous Jason Bateman and T. J. Miller) invite a potential business partner (a hilarious Courtney B. Vance) to the party that things start to escalate. Soon the party turns a little too wild, much to the audience’s amusement.
Most of Office Christmas Party is very funny, triggering smiles and giggles from most the audience at my screening, where the ages ranged from 13 to 65. The characters are all well defined and there are some great comic set-ups, although some do fall flat and show better set-ups than payoffs.
One supporting character, the quirky Kate McKinnon as the oddball HR supervisor, steals the show. She’s oblivious to the mayhem, and nails every joke. She is the funniest woman currently working in Hollywood.
However entertaining it is, the only real weakness in the film is that it isn’t important. It’s a fun diversion and a fine comedy, but there’s no reason or demand to see it. Nor is it ever crazy enough to say “It’s so outrageous you HAVE to see it to believe it.” (It’s this quality that makes great party comedies like The Hangover and Animal House so popular.)
But for a laid-back movie like this, it’s very sharp – and unlike the above titles, it’s never too insane so that it feels unrealistic. I was also impressed with it’s strong dramatic structure, following rules of time, place, and story that date back to Aristotle’s principles of drama. It’s this tradition that makes the comedy so enjoyable – it’s smart humour without us having to think about it.
Don’t be too intimidated by this talk of Greek principles, though. It has plenty of debauchery and nonsense to make you guffaw. Two standout scenes include a joust with Christmas trees for lances, and an unforgettable moment with Jason Bateman enjoying eggnog from a (somewhat phallic) ice sculpture.
There’s other zany moments and scenes, but I don’t want to spoil the gags. The most enjoyable part of watching Christmas Party was discovering all the recurring jokes and one-off moments that add to the pandemonium. (I will say, keep your eye on that indoor snow machine.)
Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to like the film…we can sit back, relax, and know that we’re safe from the bonanza we’re watching. Perhaps the fantasy is better than actually trashing your office to kingdom come. And kudos to the set decorators, who I can imagine had a ball destroying the office set for the movie.
So while this Office Christmas Party may not be critical cinema, it’s a pleasant and edgy night at the movies that’s both easily enjoyed and forgotten. And for what it’s worth, it’s likely a lot more fun than your actual office parties will be this year.
Office Christmas Party
2 1/2 out of 4 stars.
14A, 105 minutes, Comedy.
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck.
Starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T. J. Miller, and Jennifer Aniston.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill, and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.
Christmas, Comedy, Courtney B. Vance, December 9th 2016, Film.Ca Cinema, Holidays, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Josh Gordon, Kate McKinnon, Movies, Office Christmas Party, Olivia Munn, Paramount, reviews, T. J. Miller, Will Speck