Office Christmas Party

(2016) * 1/2 R
105 min. Paramount Pictures. Directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck. Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry, Courtney B. Vance, Randall Park.

/content/films/5006/1.jpgIf only life were as simple as Office Christmas Party, Paramount’s new mall-ready holiday-season comedy. Everything, for example, would be clearly labeled, like Office Christmas Party, the movie that’s all about the office Christmas party. Everyone you knew would be definable by one, easily digestible character trait. And every bad movie would be easily avoidable based on the presence of Rob Corddry. Dare to dream, my friends. Dare to dream.

But, in fact, life continues to be complicated. The office Christmas party in Office Christmas Party is actually “a non-denominational holiday mixer.” Just because you know your co-worker is neurotic about being risk-averse doesn’t mean you’re a qualified psychotherapist. And Rob Corddry played Ari Fleischer in Oliver Stone’s W. (now, don’t you feel silly?). For the record, Corddry also appeared in the not-so-funny Blades of Glory, directed by Josh Gordon & Will Speck, the guys who just unleashed the even-less-funny-than-Blades of Glory Office Christmas Party.

Now I’m just avoiding talking about Office Christmas Party, but in my defense, who wouldn’t? This always-timely tale of Secret Santas, egg-nog fountains, and people dressing up in sumo-snowman fat suits to dance like ninnies (apparently a thing) was, let us face it, inevitable. The only thing that could make it more Hollywood predictable would be to call it “Bad Office Christmas Party,” which would put it in the company of Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, Bad Moms, et al, while also having the benefit of being truth in advertising.

What’s that, you say? I still haven’t actually talked about Office Christmas Party? Well, you’re no fun. You’re obviously that person at the office Christmas party who asks your bosomy co-worker to button up her plunging neckline, like Kate McKinnon’s HR director Mary Winetoss, except you don’t have a funny name like “Mary Winetoss,” and you’re not played by Kate McKinnon. So there. And I said something about the movie. Two points for me. Count ‘em.

Well, why don’t you just tell me what you think Office Christmas Party is about, and I’ll tell you if you’re right. Uh huh. Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah, you’ve got it. There’s really no need for me to continue here. Wait, what? No, gosh darn it. I know you love Jason Bateman! We all do! But he’s trapped in Office Christmas Party, and he’s not having any more fun than you are, and oh no, I have to do my job.

So the unfunny, formulaic, and utterly predictable Office Christmas Party features about fifteen minutes of amusing scene-setting about Zenotek Data Storage Solutions CTO Josh Parker (Bateman) signing his divorce papers for a lawyer played by Matt Walsh, allowing his eyes to wander to tech whiz Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn), and then contending with squabbling siblings Clay and Carol Vanstone (T.J. Miller and Jennifer Aniston), the former being Zenotek’s fun-loving Chicago branch manager and the latter the company’s high-strung interim CEO.

Then, as in a '50s sitcom, all of the above (except sourpuss Carol) decide to woo a big account (in the person of very game straight man Courtney B. Vance) by pretending to be a fun place to work. Then Office Christmas Party throws an office Christmas party, the “wild and crazy” raucousness starts, and the fun and spontaneity end. Praise the cast, and pass the egg nog: we’re all gonna need a drink.

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