The Hangover meets the holidays in Office Christmas Party, a formula-driven, but undeniably fun romp that benefits vastly from a spectacular cast. It’s a case when A-list talent makes the difference between being average and forgettable to better than I thought it would be. The premise is simple: Clay Vanstone (TJ Miller) just wants to be a great boss, like his recently departed father. A brilliant businessman he is not, but Clay has a heart of gold. Still, when his sister, Carol, (Jennifer Aniston) storms into town ready to shut his branch of the family business (data storage servers) down, he hatches a plan to land a last minute deal by impressing a client with the most epic office Christmas party of all time. Carol, of course, has banned any holiday functions, declaring them a waste of money, but Clay happily risks it all to save his employees’ jobs.
And so we watch as he ropes his CTO, Josh (Jason Bateman); HR lead, Mary (Kate McKinnon); and lead developer, Tracey (Olivia Munn) into his plans for the over-the-top bash. And this among distraught employees already certain of what corporate means to do to their jobs. If you know the formula, you know this is a recipe for a party that’s going to get straight outta control. And so it does, pretty rapidly.
It’s in this escalation that many of the weaker antics and efforts on display in the trailer play out. But amidst the phallic eggnog run and people swinging on strings of Christmas lights Tarzan-style there are some delightful moments to found. In particular, Jennifer Aniston is clearly having a riot as a hell-on-wheels ballbuster. It’s a type she’s inhabited before, but the upshot here is that it’s clear why she is who she is, and that makes it all the more fun to watch her tear into children and wrestle burly dudes. The other side of this coin is Kate McKinnon, a performer so delightful she could make us happy doing just about anything. As Carol from HR, she’s given the gig of the walking palatitude we’re meant to laugh at, but she pulls such heart and charm into the character that we can only laugh with her and cheer her idiosyncrasies. Any HR shill with a taste for a good cheese plate who will wear a multi-holiday winter sweater with the genuine intent of inclusiveness is okay by me. In fact, when the studio mulls making a sequel to this movie, they should consider this: Carol and Mary team-up for a road trip. I’m so there.
Meanwhile, the rest of the cast do their part well, earning laughs and grins, moving the plot along and checking the requisite boxes: drug snafu, semi-menacing but mostly hilarious nefarious figure (the wonderful Jillian Bell), pop culture references, unlikely driving stunts — the gang’s all here.
Office Christmas Party is not what you’d call a good movie, but it’s a pretty damn fun one. And for some naughty Yuletide fun, you could do worse. Put it this way, when I catch it on tv, I’ll be hard pressed to resist checking in, if only for a few minutes.