Office Christmas Party movie review: messtivities

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Office Christmas Party red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Hangover lite, with even more tepid notions of what constitutes debauchery, plus a true dedication to strained contrivance.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): not a fan of grossout comedies
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

You know those really dumb comedies where the only actually funny bits are the outtakes that run over the end credits, where everyone is finally on their game and the humor comes loose and fast and unconstructed, and you think, “Gee, why isn’t the whole movie like that?”? This is not the case with Office Christmas Party. OCP — not to be confused with the evil robotics corporation in Robocop, which is more fun on a Friday after-work drinks thing than this movie — is, if I recall correctly, the first instance of end-credits clips that are as precisely forced and flat as the entirety of the film that precedes them. They’re like watching hostage videos of terrified captives reading out prepared statements. I think you can see Kate McKinnon blinking out a desperate SOS.tweet

People get really drunk and do stupid, dangerous things in a workplace scenario. Haha.

I don’t really want to say anything nice about this movie, but it takes a true dedication to strained contrivancetweet to achieve that. So bravo, guys.

Apparently it required six screenwriters (credited; there could be more) to conceive of a plot in which people get really drunk and do stupid, dangerous things in a workplace scenario. At Christmas, because there is nothing as funny as an intoxicated doofus in a Santa suit, amirite? Haha. It took six people to craft a xeroxing-of-the-genitals bit, which stopped being funny the second time that jerk from accounting did it at an office holiday party in 1978, and has probably never been funny onscreen. Some of these writers (Justin Malen and Laura Solon) have no previous feature credits to their name, and it’s difficult to see what it was about this script that made anyone want to take a chance on them. (Then again, it’s a mystery why directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck are getting another chance after 2007’s Blades of Glory and 2010’s The Switch, both of which were awful and neither of which were huge hits.) Others of these writers (Dan Mazer and Timothy Dowling) publicly admit to scripting such terrible attempts at comedy as Bridget Jones’s Baby and I Give It a Year (Mazer) and Pixels and This Means War (Dowling); but hey, hateful idiotic comedy sells, for some damn reason that is sadly all too explicable. Yet more writers still (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) are veterans of the Hangover series, and probably the best that can be said about OCP is that it is Hangover lite — not that those flicks were heavy or deep — with even more tepid notions of what constitutes debauchery.

“These antlery dudes are the scriptwriters. Aren’t they great?”
“These antlery dudes are the scriptwriters. Aren’t they great?”tweet

It’s almost adorable, the mild level of naughtiness that OCP holds up as daring and radical and outrageously hilarious, but mostly tedious and vapid. It’s as if a couple of eight-year-old boys watched a few episodes of Mad Men and The Dick Van Dyke Show to get ideas for their “raunchy” Hangover fan fiction. A Chicago tech company — they have something to do with servers and Internet access — is desperate to land the account that will keep them in business, and they think that inviting the rep they need to woo (Courtney B. Vance: Terminator Genisys, Extraordinary Measures) to an office blowout is the way to achieve this. Now, boss Clay (T.J. Miller: Deadpool, Big Hero 6), honcho Josh (Jason Bateman: Zootopia, The Family Fang) and his underling Tracey (Olivia Munn: X-Men: Apocalypse, Zoolander 2), and HR dragonlady Mary (McKinnon: Ghostbusters, The Angry Birds Movie) don’t intend for what was originally planned as a “nondenominational wine-and-cheese mixer” to be a blowout. But in a twist that is either horribly misanthropic or just the workings of tween minds fantasizing how awesome life must be when you’re a grownup, any situation in which the boss brings in oceans of booze, live reindeer, and an awful DJ is clearly going to dissolve into a Mad Max-style apocalypse that chiefly involves the accidental ingestion of cocaine and some random naked boobs for titillation and a naked dick for lulz.tweet

Much raunchy. Such debauch.
Much raunchy. Such debauch.tweet

This movie is the Rob Corddry of dumb comedies: just sort of there with no real point to make or personality to exude, standing around hoping no one asks just why it’s there or what purpose it serves, yet ironically safe because it isn’t drawing any attention anyway. In a further bit of irony — or perhaps not — Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Sex Tape) appears in this movie as a character who is all but undefined; he might be called Office Guy Who Takes His Pants Off, but I’m not sure if that’s his given name or a surname.

If this movie wasn’t written by scared, naive little boys, you’d never guess it. The women here come in various combinations of confident and smart and competent and pragmatic, all of which is depicted as ranging from intimidating to downright villainous, as with Jennifer Aniston’s CEO, threatening to shut the company down (and no way are they to spend any money on a party! she will be ignored, as party-pooping moms usually are). The men run the gamut from overly cautious professionally and nervous personally to childishly and enthusiastically incompetent… all of which is treated as rather heroic, or at least no impediment to heroism. Yay boys! (Munn’s character gets a teeny bit of a triumph, but it never would have come to pass if not for the sheer juvenile imbecility of Miller’s and Bateman’s.)

Honestly, the hardest hitting OCP ever gets is when the gang decides, goshdarnit, that they are going to call their shindig a “Christmas party” as a smack in the face of political correctness that no one was trying to force on them anyway. Smug yet utterly inconsequential?tweet That is Office Christmas Party in a tiny threadbare stocking.

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Wed, Dec 14, 2016 1:00am

I kept seeing the trailers and all I could think was what a criminal waste of generally talented people.

Wed, Dec 14, 2016 11:06am

I saw the trailers for this with not so much a sense of dread or revulsion as a sense of boredom. “Oh, is that meant to be funny?” Congratulations, MaryAnn, on getting something worth reading out of something that clearly wasn’t worth watching.

There’s an anime series in which the protagonist works at “Web Related Company”. To me that makes laziness into a new form of style. (Alas, the rest of it isn’t up to much.)

Wed, Dec 14, 2016 6:56pm

The bad news is that I got stuck watching this movie in a theatre. The good news is that it was a free ticket, so I only had to pay for overpriced food/drinks.
Some observations:
1. There was barely any laughter from the audience for the entire movie.
2. I guess that we are supposed to laugh at people who are high on cocaine.
3. Jennifer Aniston needs a better agent.
4. Ooooooooo, flashes of nudity…that’s so “naughty”.
5. So this is diversity: we get two token black characters instead of the usual one.
6. Wow, a fart joke…how original.
7. It does make you wonder as to how much of the dialogue was made up on the spot.
8. At least we have the “Smoking hot woman who turns out to be a computer genius” character.
9. A bunch of set pieces cobbled together do not a movie make.