By Chaz Lipp
The biggest problem with the holiday comedy Office Christmas Party is that it tries to tell an actual story. Buried under all the forced “hilarity” of Zenotek’s (a high tech firm) party planning lies a straightforward ‘race against the clock to save people’s jobs’ plot. A spirited ensemble cast cannot assuage the creeping monotony of all the tired “office workers behaving badly” cliches.
Siblings Carol (Jennifer Aniston) and Clay (T.J. Miller) Vanstone are Zenotek’s intermediate CEO and Chicago branch manager, respectively, following the passing of their father. Uptight Carol plans to shut down the Chicago branch, mostly to spite Clay. She invites tech officer Josh (Jason Bateman) to join her at the main NYC office, but Josh feels loyalty to his Chicago employees. The impending closure is unknown to the rest of the staff, which includes HR officer Mary (Kate McKinnon). Mary is desperate to prevent any policy violations at the office Christmas party. Carol steadfastly opposes such a party and tries to prohibit its occurrence.
If only Josh can hook a major client before the holidays, maybe Carol will keep the branch open thereby saving everyone’s job. That whale happens to be Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), whom the Zenotek team plans to woo at the big party. Yes, Clay goes ahead with the big party despite his sister’s orders. And, predictably, the whole affair devolves into a orgy of sex, drugs, prostitutes, and various public disturbances. Soon it seems all of Chicago is in attendance. Meanwhile, Zenotek chief developer Tracey (Olivia Munn) unveils a long-in-gestation Internet connectivity process that allows users to use any electricity-powered appliance to get online. Can securing Walter as a client, combined with an early demo/launch of Tracey’s breakthrough, save the Chicago branch?
The cast (which also includes SNL‘s Vanessa Bayer as a single-and-not-loving-it office drone) seems to be having a blast. There are scattered laughs throughout, but the plot keeps getting in the way. Office Christmas Party is unlikely to become a holiday tradition to join the ranks of seasonal favorites.
Office Christmas Party images: DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Bluegrass Films, Entertainment 360, Paramount Pictures