The holidays are here, and with great Yuletide traditions come another batch of Christmas-themed movies. Classics like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation and Home Alone are go-to favorites for this time of year. Yet, there are also the lesser-known Christmas movies that are all-too forgettable, like Fred Claus and Four Christmases. This year’s new holiday film, Office Christmas Party, has a different take on the season. It is essentially the Christmas version of comedies we have come to expect over the last few years. Movies like Hot Tub Time Machine, Horrible Bosses and 22 Jump Street have delivered crass humor that have emerged as genre cornerstones. Office Christmas Party took the same approach, just with more eggnog.
The movie opens with Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) finalizing his divorce before heading to work at Zenotek, a tech company with multi-tiered levels of incompetent employees. When an unexpected visit from the company’s CEO, Carol, (Jennifer Anniston) prompts an impromptu branch meeting, her younger brother and branch manager, Clay (T.J. Miller), has to figure out how to increase company profits in two days in order to save the jobs of his employees. His only shot is to secure the business of Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) to save his staff. In order to show Davis that their office has a good cohesive culture, Clay decides to go all out and throw a raging Christmas party like his dad would have done, when he ran things.
Office Christmas party is a movie that has a lot of moving parts to it. With more than 10 characters to focus on, the main plot gives way to smaller storylines. There is the department head, Nate, who is solely focused on dispelling his loser image by hiring an escort to pose as his girlfriend. Then there’s the customer-service rep, Jeremy, who is at odds with H.R. Director Mary, because of their own polarizing views on office appropriateness. Then there are the two or three romantic interests between multiple employees that add a certain sexual tension into the mix.
Essentially, the overall theme of the movie is akin to a lot of Christmas movies. That is, enjoy the company you keep. In this case, your coworkers, instead of your family. The message is a good one. Having to drone away at a corporate job can be a soul-sucking experience. Getting along with those you work with is important, but being able to bond with them and have a good time can make a big difference, too.
Overall, Office Christmas Party has a few good laughs, but for every good one, there are two or three that just don’t hit their marks. A lot of the humor is tied to culturally relevant topics. References to Prince and David Bowie’s deaths, with other 2016 topics almost insure that the movie will be dated down the road. There is also an immense level of illogical scenarios that don’t make sense either. Having a drunk driver crash into an Internet utility building, only to be released from the hospital the following day, without any legal repercussions, just begs for some grounding in a more realistic world.
Office Christmas Party isn’t going to be a classic. It may get you into the holiday spirit and even muster up some relatable circumstances for viewers, but otherwise doesn’t fully satisfy. It seems like these kinds of movies that shuffle in a bunch of recognizable names and faces only operate as the sum of their parts and not a whole. It is a reminder, however, that it is important to enjoy the season, even if it adds a lot of unwanted stresses.