‘Office Christmas Party’ Feels Swamped

Despite an ensemble cast and the potential of an annual niche, ‘Office Christmas Party’ still struggles with the weight of its own unruly promise.

‘Office Christmas Party,’ in its best effort, replaces quick wit with grimy lumps of coal.

Photo courtesy of Steven Zang.

It’s beginning to look like something we’ve seen before. Office Christmas Party, the newest efforts of tag-team directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory, The Switch), aims tall and ends up falling short. The holiday film holds the capacity to be something uniquely special, yet throws such whims under a safety blanket. Better yet, the most “unsafe” attribute about this flick is its ability to unwrap that much crudity within 105 minutes.

Luckily, there’s some sense of guidance to the plot, even though that aspect seems foreseeable in itself: Zenotech’s Chicago branch holds a shadow over many of its techie-employees, whether it be divorcee Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), ambitious Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) or youthful branch-manager Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller). However, when Clay’s CEO sister, Carol (Jennifer Anniston), threatens their branch’s livelihood out of vengeance, the team must come together to attract a major account with their company’s annual Christmas party.

Obviously, the party gets vulgarly out-of-hand, and the audience is quickly introduced to a lengthy stretch of inevitable silhouettes. And sure, Office Christmas Party can make you chuckle; some parts will make you laugh more than you wish. Nonetheless, it treats comedy as a set of interchangeable parts, keeping a standard format in exchange for distinctively crude vignettes. You will be left with a void worthy of your curious mind, and question if it was worthy of your wallet in the first place.

Office Christmas Party hooked me in with the cast, and even got me to the movie theater,” said Julia Zang, long-time Jason Bateman fanatic. “It was predictable, but entertaining. I left the theater in a good mood, but not with the intention of seeing it again.”

And that’s exactly where Office Christmas Party falls short. All the elements are there, but the hype doesn’t have enough to make it an annual tradition amongst family and friends. In the end, the big-budget comedy of the season feels more like a predictable raunch-fest, with some big names to back it up. Laughter is expected, even in its most obscure moments. Nevertheless, nothing feels all too memorable about it.

Office Christmas Party is now playing in select movie theaters worldwide. Some local venues include AMC Clifton Commons and AMC Essex Greens in nearby West Orange. For a list of even more theaters and show-times, visit fandango.com and plan your next trip to the big screen today.

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