Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Tuesday's Reviews: Office Christmas Party (2016)

As we're now well into the month of January 2017, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the time for watching Christmas films is over. You'd be correct but I've had a weird desire to see this film for ages now. I say weird because my expectations for the film were microscopic. It looked abysmal and, let's be honest, Jason Bateman isn't exactly known for his superb film choices. However, my insane love of Kate McKinnon meant that I really wanted to give it a chance. After all, doesn't she guarantee that, even if the whole thing is baf, that she'll provide adequate comedy to make anything passable? Well I certainly hope so. Considering I'm potentially drenching myself in bad luck by watching this after the twelve days of Christmas is up.  Imagine if it's bad and Santa doesn't bring me any gifts next year. Sheesh!

Office Christmas Party seems like it should be a super simple film: a childish boss organises a Christmas party at work that gets wildly out of hand. However, thanks to the seemingly endless number of writers, this film becomes unnecessarily bloated and full of needless characters. Especially when you consider that, at it's most basic level, it is a comedy about a staff Christmas party that gets wildly out of hand. I mean it was hardly crying out for subtext or depth. Just some typical workplace comedy utilising the cast of great comic talents and enviable improvisational skills. Instead we have a film in which the titular Christmas party is actually less important to the plot than almost everything else happening on screen. If anything that's just an after thought.

The main narrative of Office Christmas Party involves ambitious CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down her brother, Clay's (TJ Miller), branch of their recently deceased father's tech company. She will only give the branch a reprieve if Clay can land a high profile account. So Clay teams up with his friend, CTO Josh (Jason Bateman) and the head of tech Tracey (Olivia Munn) to encourage the account manager Walter (Courtney B. Vance) to agree to a partnership. Apparently the only way to make this happen is to throw a massive Christmas party that Walter never really seems keen to attend.

So there we have the central theme running through this travesty of a Christmas comedy. In addition to that is Josh's impending divorce and attraction to Tracey; new single mum Allison (Vanessa Bayer) dipping her toe back into the dating pool; the head of HR ary (Kate McKinnon) and her desire to not cause offence to anyone in the world ever: and the desperate attempts of Nate (Karan Sori) to not lose face in a lie about a hot girlfriend by hiring an escort. And even that isn't the end of the plot points on display but if I try and name all of them here it'll waste too much time and space.

The problem with Office Christmas Party is that it tries too hard to be funny. There are so many failed attempts to be funny that the random times in which it happens just don't seem as great. I mean if you throw enough darts at a dartboard then at least one of them is bound to hit something big, right? There were too many voices being heard when this film was being written and it shows. It is bogged down by the huge cast of characters and the number of storylines that it's meant to tie up before the credits role. It means that none of them feel satisfactory. It's all kind of cliched and obvious but nothing memorable. Even the great improvisers like Kate McKinnon aren't really given much room to work and are wasted in terrible roles. I even felt sorry for Vanessa Bayer, my least favourite SNL current cast member, for being underused here.

Office Christmas Party is so keen to create whimsy, fun, and Christmas cheer that it fails to manage any of them. Everything is forced instead of feeling natural and the jokes are so clearly signposted that the eventual punchline is more of a comfort than a joy. This is just a lazily written film that takes any potential it had and throws it out of the window. It's cheap and easy comedy that adds a few emotional plots in for good measure. The central love story and brother/sister relationship are lacking in real sentimentality and seem to exist only for the traditional Christmas spirit ending. I knew that this film was going to be terrible before I watched it but even I was surprised by how bad it was. Never has is been so obvious that ideas were lacking. Well, what else explains the need to throw every possible scenario onto one screen? If I do get bad luck this year then it's clear that Office Christmas Party wasn't worth it..

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