April is not the best time to watch a Christmas comedy, but I could not wait another seven months to review Office Christmas Party, an amusing but ultimately forgettable R-rated holiday farce. Tech company CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) is tired of her immature little brother Clay's (T. J. Miller) troublemaking, and sees him as ultimately responsible for the poor performance of the branch he manages in downtown Chicago. She threatens to shut down the office unless Clay lands a huge client, which seems unlikely. Clay enlists his co-workers Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) and Mary Winetoss (Kate McKinnon) to help, and decides to throw a blow-out party to lure a financial power player away from his current employ. Directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon (Blades of Glory) stock a fine cast, but Office Christmas Party relies too heavily on manufactured, outlandish situations to move the plot forward when it should have let its talented actors run wild.
Clay Vanstone seems ill equipped to run a huge tech company's Chicago branch, but it is immediately clear that he loves his employees. The branch is out of money, but he goes on an expensive shopping spree with Josh, picking out personal gifts for each worker. When his sister flies in like a ghost of Christmas past, Clay immediately senses trouble. Carol Vanstone already has closed another low-performing branch, and still feels burned that her late father apparently liked Clay more than her. She got the company, but that does not soften her black heart. After dropping bombs on Clay, she heads to the airport to fly to London, and Clay scrambles to impress Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), who is leaning toward jumping to a more-established company than Clay's Zenotek. Unbeknownst to Clay, Carol has secretly promised Josh a lucrative job in New York City at the head branch if he agrees to come work for her.
At 105 minutes, Office Christmas Party is plenty entertaining. It never takes its R-rating as far as I was expecting (3D printed penises notwithstanding), and it offers more chuckles than belly laughs. For better or worse, the film spends a lot of time on side plots and characters, like the wound-up Uber driver who tries to take Carol back to Zenotek from the closed airport. There's also an extended subplot involving a crazy pimp (Jillian Bell) who tries to take Clay for thousands of dollars after one of her girls attends the party and pretends to be the girlfriend of a nerdy staffer. Despite its title, Office Christmas Party spends plenty of time away from the party on these diversions, as if the filmmakers lost inspiration for the central plot device and decided awkward tangents were a good salve for repetitious comedy. The film even climaxes with an over-the-top action scene that is, again, not at the office party.
Aniston is lovely as always, and not really that bad of a bad guy. She comes around to the cause late in the film, when Clay finds himself in some real trouble. Bateman and Munn are also good, and Munn again excels at playing a beautiful, down-to-earth character with brains. Miller is sporadically funny here, and plays the role closer to the chest than some of his other more grating performances. Some of the quick-fix plot devices, like a fan blowing cocaine into the nose of Davis to kick-start his wild behavior, feel very uninspired, as does the physical comedy aside from Miller and Aniston's sibling smackdown. Worth watching for a few laughs and the talented cast, Office Christmas Party is not destined to become a Christmas classic.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image from Paramount arrives on a dual-layered Blu-ray disc. The film has the look of a typical comedy: smooth, clean and somewhat flat. Fine-object detail is good, and close-ups reveal solid texture and facial details. Wide shots tended to be softer but edges remained defined. The color scheme leans toward the cool side, but there are some nice pops of brighter color inside the office. Black levels are appropriately deep, and skin tones accurate. I did not notice any overt technical flaws in this transfer.
The disc offers a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that is also pretty standard comedy fare. This is a dialogue-heavy mix, and dialogue is presented without distortion. There is plenty of directional dialogue and many overlapping conversations, and the track handles these with ease. Ambient effects, like office chatter and crowd noise, waft through the surrounds. The later action effects rumble the subwoofer and provide a decently dynamic experience. The frequent popular music selections are given appropriate weight in the mix and are nicely balanced. The disc also includes French, Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and both iTunes and UltraViolet digital copies. The discs are packed in an eco-case that is wrapped in a matching slipcover. The Blu-ray offers both the theatrical cut (1:45:21) and an unrated cut (1:50:47). From my quick glance, it appears most of the additions are extended scenes. Extras include an Audio Commentary from directors Speck and Gordon on the theatrical cut; Throwing an Office Christmas Party (11:51/HD), a brief making-of; Outtakes (8:38/HD); and Deleted Scenes (2:58/HD).
I doubt Office Christmas Party will make it into your yearly holiday movie line-up, but it is a moderately amusing diversion. The stacked cast, including Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn, elevates the material, but the film relies too heavy on manufactured situational comedy instead of letting its players run wild. Rent It.