Skip this Office Christmas Party

After an intriguing start, star-studded comedy veers off into silly hijinks

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY (Josh Gordon, Will Speck). 105 minutes. Opens Friday (December 9). See listing. Rating: NN

For a little while, Office Christmas Party seems to be onto something, looking at a company’s “non-denominational holiday mixer” as a mazel tov cocktail of confused and contradictory workplace emotion.

The company is Zenotek, a tech firm run by Jason Bateman’s Josh and T.J. Miller’s Clay. They’re lorded over by Jennifer Aniston’s interim CEO, a fashion-conscious bully who’s looking to increase margins by axing everything from jobs to the titular holiday shindig. Josh and Clay go ahead with it anyway, because an office party with reindeer and blow is a surefire way to land the client they need to appease the board of directors.  

It’s a ridiculous premise that makes room for sincere office space frustrations like bickering employees, tight-assed superiors and overly protective HR managers. Then comes the revelry: cubicles are torn down to make way for a holiday bash, with everyone cutting loose as if they don’t have to worry that their jobs and bonuses may be in jeopardy.

The office party is that peculiar event where you get turnt but proceed with caution. The movie has some fun with that dilemma, and even gets the spirits up when its mixer gets anarchic. But where do you go from there?

That’s something that stumps the boardroom of writers (there’s six!). They dismiss satire and go off into delusional hijinks. Aniston lays down some Krav Maga on Eastern European thugs because that’s where the movie ends up. Bateman does all the boring stuff he usually does (why does he even show up to these things?), while Olivia Munn bats her eyes at him (seriously, why?).

The sporadic laughs come from Miller, who can make the dullest lines sing, and an ace supporting cast that includes Kate McKinnon, Randall Park and Jillian Bell as a manic pimp.

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