Office Christmas Party may be one of the laziest comedies in recent memory. In lieu of clever writing, the thinking seemed to be, “Let’s just get a bunch of funny actors, and everything will work out.” There’s no effort to make memorable characters or unique situations. Everything rests on actors you’ve liked in better movies and TV shows being given awful jokes with the expectation that they can somehow work their magic. But that’s not how good comedy works, and while directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck seem to revel in shooting their office bacchanalia, the characters inhabiting the party are flat, lifeless, and dull.
The tech company Zenotec is facing tough times, likely because their boss Clay (T.J. Miller) is more focused on everyone having a fun time rather than buckling down and being good at their jobs. He inherited the branch from his late father, but his mean sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston), working as the interim CEO, is determined to cancel the Christmas party, cut bonuses, and ultimately lay off 40% of the staff. With the help of his best friend and CTO Josh (Jason Bateman) and programmer Tracey (Olivia Munn), Clay believes that if he can land Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) and his business, it will save the company. Their solution: show Walter a good time at the annual Christmas party, he’ll become a client, and the branch will be saved. Shenanigans ensue.
I’m not exactly sure what about Office Christmas Party appealed to this cast. Perhaps it was the opportunity to work with each other, because there doesn’t seem to be anything in the script that’s particularly worthy of anyone’s talent. When your movie has Miller, Aniston, Bateman, Vance, and Munn along with Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Jillian Bell, and Rob Corddry, you’re not hurting for talent. These are all incredibly funny people who have done great work in better material. Here, every single actor is completely wasted with maybe the exception of Bell who gets a few funny minutes when we’re introduced to her character, a pimp with the personality of a customer service representative from the Midwest (a funny demeanor the movie quickly abandons in favor of her acting psychotic).
For the most part, Office Christmas Party is about as predictable as you’d expect. Are Josh and Tracey going to get together because they’re attracted to each other? You bet! Is someone accidentally going to put a baggie of cocaine into the snow machine and get someone high? You bet! Can you see just about every joke in this movie coming from a mile away? You bet! Office Christmas Party may be an R-rated comedy, but it’s as safe and predictable as any CBS sitcom.
Office Christmas Party is a case of quantity over quality. It’s jam-packed with funny, charismatic actors, but with a script this bad, they’re all rendered humorless and charmless. No one even seems to be having a particularly good time, and watching the film, you’ll find yourself flashing back to roles where these actors were so much better. No one’s career will be harmed by Office Christmas Party. For that to happen, you’d actually have to remember this movie exists, which will be a struggle the second you leave the theater.