First came badass-birthday-blast Project X (2012). Now it’s Office Christmas Party time, continuing Hollywood’s trend of making it seem as if big-budget movie-making is just a matter of pouring cash into super-simulated, big blow-out spectacles by, well, making big-budget movies where cash is poured into super-simulations of big blow-out parties.
Going for the silver in Tinseltown’s increasingly competitive Blatant Title Olympics (a title such as Crash Santa Bash would’ve clinched the gold), the movie actually takes its time getting to the festive freakout-frolic. Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston), a she-grinch battleaxe frost-queen (stereo)type, shows up to Zenotec’s Chicago office to quash party plans and threaten to shutter the branch. Her brother Clay (TJ Miller), the branch’s head, along with Chief Technical Officer Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) and top programmer Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn), try to coax a big name, Walter Davis (Courtney B Vance), to join them and save the branch by secretly reigniting the party . . . but will it flame out?
There are a few inspired moments of niche humour (Clay did a degree in “Canadian Television Theory, with a concentration in Drake”), prankishness (an update on the butt-photocopying stunt), and absurdity (a snow-spray gun blows a different kind of snow), plus a brassy Uber driver. But the predictable Josh-Tracey romance is as dull as a bucketful of bleached coal. The draggy ending dredges up an earlier routine, spins out a Christmas feel-good-ness by reuniting the gang as if it’s some sort of Noel’s Eleven heist flick, and calls back that Uber driver. Even Kate McKinnon’s tightly-wound HR director wears out her tightly-smiling-Midwesterner welcome after a while.
It seems fitting that the big climax has Tracey—through some insta-programming magic involving just a few cables, an old modem, a screen, and a keyboard—restore the glorious light of the World Wide Web to Chicago after an Internet-blackout, saving the company. Because why not Santa-cap a film about glorious party-excess with a celebration of the glorious info-excess? If only what streams out of Office Christmas Party, up there on the big screen, were worth celebrating.
Directed by Josh Gordon, Will Speck