Raunchy ‘Office Christmas’ party may leave you hung over
“Office Christmas Party” benefits greatly from the newly relaxed marijuana laws in California.
It’s a film that works best when you’re in a good mood, but no condition to drive. (Or think too much about the plot.) You might want to watch it on the way home from your office Christmas party.
There are problems with the R-rated comedy, including the telegraphing of almost every plot point. Too many moments elicit a polite half chuckle, when the screenwriters are trying for uproarious laughter.
But it benefits from an excellent cast that seems to be all in. And whenever there’s a stretch of extended mediocrity, it’s almost always saved by an unexpected moment of politically incorrect inspiration.
The movie starts with the solid foundation of Jason Bateman as Josh, a newly divorced second-in-command at a data-networking firm run by the train wreck of a Type A sister (Jennifer Aniston, channeling Sigourney Weaver from “Working Girl”) at odds with her immature underling brother (T.J. Miller, channeling T.J. Miller).
Through a series of aggressively senseless plot turns, the repressed and morale-starved branch can only be saved if they throw the most raucous office party in history. Yes, the filmmakers have taken a single sequence from “Revenge of the Nerds,” and stretched it out into an entire movie.
Cue the montage featuring a truckload of alcohol, inappropriate things done to the staff copy machine (and, memorably, the 3D printer), plus all the repressed older office ladies cutting loose on the dance floor.
“Office Christmas Party” could have used one more sharp rewrite. National treasure Kate McKinnon is forced to make multiple flatulence jokes. Directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon sully the over-the-top bacchanalian mood with awkwardly straightforward relationship building that seems as if it belongs in another movie.
Aniston’s admirable efforts are almost ruined by the script, which has her character fluctuating wildly between goofiness and pure evil.
(Side note: An airport scene where Aniston’s character scares the little girl who ate her Cinnabon is fantastically diabolical. You’ll wonder if the child actress has recovered in real life.)
But whenever the story falters, the cast always comes to the rescue. Bateman and Olivia Munn, mostly unconvincing as the code-building engineering minds behind the tech firm’s success, create an unshakeable rooting interest.
Their likeability provides cover for all the wacky smaller characters to cut loose, including Vanessa Bayer as a mother on the edge and Jillian Bell as an unstable pimp with occasional nurturing instincts. Comic actors you’ll recognize pass through, sometimes for a single scene, and deliver an unexpected laugh.
And when it’s all over, you’ll immediately forget half of it. (With any luck, it will be the half involving the simulated oral sex with an ice sculpture.) Like most office Christmas parties, “Office Christmas Party” is just good enough to validate your decision to show up.
Running time: 105 minutes
MPAA rating: R (crude/sexual content, profanity, graphic nudity)