When Scroogey CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close the local branch, her brother Clay (T.J. Miller) leads the charge to throw a monstrous office shindig to impress a crucial client and save their jobs. Cue unholy carnage as the gatecrashed shebang spins out of control.
There’s a gruesome cringe-com just waiting to be made about the annual horror of the office Christmas party. Office Christmas Party isn’t that movie. Pitched as a white-collar frat-house comedy, Will Speck and Josh Gordon’s latest plays like Animal House in the IT sector: an unembarrassed eruption of volcanic indulgence that fizzles out in a messy third-act featuring car-chases and kidnappings beamed in from another movie entirely. In fact, despite its does-what-it-says-on-the-tin title, here’s a film in the grip of an identity crisis: in a bid for the widest possible audience, we get slapstick, sex farce, gross-out and rom-com, all jumbled together. It’s the comedy equivalent of one of those murky cocktails brewing in a lager-can you find at the end of the night.
The fun’s nowhere near as infectious as it thinks it is.
Gluing it all together are a game and gifted cast, and a sporadically inspired script that offers new twists on old gags (why photocopy your arse when you can 3D-print your privates?) but there’s a fundamental flaw here, and one shared by fellow party-comedies Old School and Project X. Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn might be having a great time dancing in their inflatable snowmen outfits, likewise Courtney B Vance snorting coke from a snow machine. But unless you’ve downed a pint of Hammerite paint beforehand, the experience screams of second-hand-hedonism, and the fun’s nowhere near as infectious as it thinks it is: you’re watching a party with your nose pressed against the glass.
Still, if the movie lacks that word-of-mouth set-piece, it does boast another killer Kate McKinnon creation. Sheathed in a non-denominational Christmas jumper, you’d happily watch a feature spin-off following her pedantic, parrot-loving HR Nazi. Ironically, for all its overblown carnage, it’s McKinnon’s party-pooper you’ll remember the morning after.
In a year of Bad Moms, Bad Santas and Bad Neighbours, this is, essentially, Bad Employees: another irresponsible-adults comedy, another great cast, and another erratic script. Catch it for McKinnon.