Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) runs his father’s branch of Zenotek. He is preparing a pitch with Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) to lure a new client. With Christmas coming, Clay is reminiscing about how his father ran the company. Everyone loved him. During Zenotek’s annual Christmas party, his father always surprised the employees with the perfect gift for each of them. Clay is hoping to get the company back to that level of engagement.
With Zenotek not doing as well as it should, Clay’s hard-nosed sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston) pays a visit to his branch. Carol cancels the branch’s Christmas party. She also informs Clay that if he can’t turn the branch around before the end of the year, she is going to close the branch. With just two days to save the branch, Clay must act quickly. Clay, Josh, and Tracey (Olivia Munn), Josh’s ambitious employee, plan a huge office Christmas party in hopes of wooing Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), a potential client with a huge account to save the branch and the jobs of everyone who works there.
The end of every year is laden with movies hoping to gain last-minute attention before the Oscars, Critics’ Choice awards, and the like. While this provides for some excellent movies filling up the end of the year, it makes for a very deep, heavy movie season. Fortunately, most years we are treated to a handful of movies that have no preoccupation with awards consideration and simply aim to entertain the audience. Office Christmas Party falls into the second category.
The cast of the movie is filled with all kinds of comedy heavyweights including Rob Corddry, Randall Park, Matt Walsh, Ben Falcone, and SNL veterans Vanessa Bayer and Kate McKinnon – as the overzealous HR lady. Add to that T.J. Miller’s lovable, childlike branch manager who just wants to have fun and be the boss that everyone loves. Jason Bateman plays a grounded, play-it-safe boss who just wants to do his job well without going outside the lines. He adds that Bateman touch that he does so well, giving it just the right hint of sarcastic wit. He is contrasted by Olivia Munn’s innovative, driven, think outside the box character. Olivia gets her share of funny moments in the film alongside the rest of the cast. Jennifer Aniston, who pairs well with Bateman, as we have seen before, fits in nicely as the hard-ass, no-nonsense CEO of the company, who harbors just a bit of resentment at her brother’s free-wheeling ways. If you’re wondering how they fit so many big names into the film, they gives just enough screen time to everyone, almost making it not feel crammed together. Almost.
The story here is pretty standard fare for a Christmas comedy. The CEO threatens to put a lot of people out of a job right before Christmas, unless they can meet some impossible demand. The branch leaders then hatch a some insane scheme to save Christmas for everyone, which doesn’t exactly go as planned. Absolutely nothing here. Fortunately, the writers and directors put it together in such a way that it is a treat. Fueled by plenty of booze and just a hint of illicit drugs, the party is out of control – in a good way. What we are left with is an irreverent comedy that stops just short of becoming wholly inappropriate and too over the top.
Office Christmas Party isn’t going to be in contention for any major awards, and it doesn’t want to be. All it aims to do is make you laugh. And it will do just that. It makes for an entertaining movie that you don’t have to think about. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.