Saturday, 10 December 2016

Office Christmas Party (2016) - Movie Review
I mentioned our current morbid take on the festive season earlier this month, but I think it’s now that I should bring up why that has taken hold of the collective mindset. In lieu of a dry and lengthy ramble about human evolution and how it is both a blessing and a curse, I’ll just say that with how complex our lives continue to get, things like actually having time every year to relax and let go of all the year’s grievances aren’t realistic. Christmas may be recognized as a time of goodwill toward men but anyone who has recently attempted a family Christmas dinner will know that that isn’t even close to the case. Add to that how this has been a particularly mournful year in terms of beloved icons, and we’re less likely to sing Joy To The World than we are to just roar The Pogues’ Fairytale Of New York before drowning our sorrows in hard liquor. The world sucks and it only seems to make people even more stressed out during the holidays. So, with all that in mind, maybe this hedonistic Christmas party movie is just what we need right now. This is Office Christmas Party.

The plot: Clay (T.J. Miller), a branch manager for a technology company, is told by his CEO/sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) that there will be heavy layoffs and no bonuses over Christmas, unless he can manage to secure the account of businessman Walter (Courtney B. Vance). Eager to impress him with their company’s values of customer service and family, Clay and his co-workers John (Jason Bateman) and Tracey (Olivia Munn) must help organise the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties and invite Walter to join in. However, they were expressly told by Carol not to throw one, and she may be staying in town for a little longer than any of them thought.

The cast here is chock-full of comedic talent, and this is honestly pretty consistent in terms of performances… even considering how Aniston turns out. She’s essentially playing the Scrooge of the film and, whether it’s because of her acting or the writing or a midway point between them, she does maybe a little too well in that role. Like, to the point where she shows near-Knock Knock levels of cuntery, resulting in someone who is incredibly hateful but not in any way enjoyable or funny to watch. Getting away from her, because if I couldn’t do it in the film proper, I can at least attempt it in writing, the performances here range from the passable (Munn and Bateman are kind of bland as two of our mains) to the decent (Rob Corddry and Vance are both very game about the material and that willingness definitely shines through) to the “Oh God, why wasn’t this film just all about him?” like with T.J. Miller. Yeah, he’s a pretty big focus of the film, but as I’ll get into, maybe going strictly with a single person’s perspective might have helped this film a bit.

This is a party movie in probably the most literal sense of the term, with the entire plot hinging on whether or not the titular event is awesome enough to save everyone’s jobs. It’s kind of like a slightly more mature version of 2012’s Project X, except in the comparison, I can’t help but think that Project X did a better job in that regard. Yeah, it was undoubtedly stupider and more aggravating as an overall production, but at least that managed to convey the idea that the main party was worth being part of. Between the pretty weak music selection, the only sporadic moments of shit-you-wouldn’t-see-anywhere-else and just how disinterested the cast are, this is a pretty lame party. Honestly, it only ends up making the more downbeat plot progression feel like an inevitability, as it’s pretty disconcerting when you stack all your chips in a single idea and you aren’t even able to make that look enticing.

That said, I can’t even call this particularly dull as this film does end up having numerous moments of spontaneous comedy in between its anaemic partying and frankly embarrassingly lack of real-world logic. Seriously, the only things these filmmakers apparently understand less than an office Christmas party worth going to are technology with the McGuffin that ultimately make no sense, and actual business practices with how almost everything going on being grounds for the very fate that these workers are trying to avoid. It’s only because of shoehorned-in sentimentality that Carol doesn’t end up doing the one decent thing her character could get done. Anyway, tangent: I was supposed to be talking about the good parts of this film. Honestly, that’s kind of apropos considering this honestly ends up nailing one aspect of the average party pretty well: The smaller and more memorable moments are often greater than the whole experience of the party. From one of the most jarringly realistic depictions of a pimp I’ve seen in theatres to the aforementioned burning tree jousting to T.J. Miller channelling actual fun through his every pore, there’s actually quite a lot of funny moments. It’s just that they’re scattered around a rather disinterested execution of the premise.

All in all, even with how dull this can get, I can’t even call it all that bad because, when it’s actually funny, it’s pretty damn funny. Aniston may be in Bitch Triumphant mode here, but the rest of the actors do decently enough, the plot may not actually be about anything but the pacing is still pretty straight-forward never feels like it’s actively dragging its feet, and its writing may lead to some chuckles but it ultimately fails at all three parts of its title. The office workers don’t give off any real sense of community, the party is weak, and as for this being a Christmas film, it barely even qualifies as such both in tone and in subject matter. It's an abject failure to show people connecting over the holidays, in a story that intentionally or not is all about people failing to connect over the holidays.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post!! This Christmas went to my friend’s party at one of event venues Chicago. My family also attended this party along with me and we were very happy to find dear ones there. She did a fabulous job by using best managing ideas. Really had a great time there.