Movie: Office Christmas Party

Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Starring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, and Courtney B. Vance

People who remain in toxic office environments often remain in their job because at one point, they actually cared about the sake of the company, and still want to see it ultimately succeed. Even if they have become combative against everyone and everything that has made their job emotionally harmful, finding ways to bond with their colleagues during a drastic event can ultimately boost morale and offer them hope that their lives can improve. That realistic sentiment of trying to find ways of overcoming the feeling of being being marginalized and underappreciated is relatable and surprisingly amusing in the new comedy, ‘Office Christmas Party.’ The film, which Paramount Pictures is set to release in theaters tomorrow, is the latest feature collaboration from directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck, who prove once again that they’re not afraid to use shocking humor to provide commentary on the latest issues in society.

‘Office Christmas Party’ follows the underperforming Chicago branch of a technology company, Zenotek, whose chief technical officer, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), is the only high-ranking employee who seems to truly be concerned with improving the business. The newly divorced executive is close friends with the at-times irresponsible branch president, Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), who is only in the position because he has inherited the job from his father. Despite the branch not quite meeting the quarter’s goals, the friends and colleagues are still stunned when Clay’s business-driven sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who’s serving as the company’s interim CEO, shows up at the branch unannounced. She threatens to lay off 40 percent of the branch’s employees, and stop the remaining workers’ holiday bonuses, if her brother and Josh don’t quickly improve the company’s profits.

In order to boost company morale, as well as impress Carol by securing a much sought-after contract with a potential business partner, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), Clay and Josh decide to throw an epic holiday party in his honor. They elicit the help of Lead Systems Engineer, Tracey (Olivia Munn), who reports to Josh, and with whom she’s developing a potential romantic connection. Much to the concern of the branch’s Head of Human Resources, Mary (Kate McKinnon), Clay, Josh and Tracey host the wildest Christmas party their office has ever seen. Their goal is to not only secure the contract with Walter and convince Carol they’re capable of successfully running the branch, but also prove to themselves that their efforts have value.

Gordon and Speck, who reunited for their third film, after directing ‘Blades of Glory’ and the Bateman and Aniston-starring ‘The Switch’ together, effortlessly created their first classic R-rated comedy. While the scope of the party that Josh and Clay throw their employees at the Zenotek office becomes fantastical at times, as it features such shocking elements as Walter swinging from a string of lights, ‘Office Christmas Party’ shows the power of people connecting and forming unlikely alliances during times of dire need.

Josh and Clay are grippingly put into the realistic and daunting situation of possibly having to lay off employees at their branch if they don’t find a way to improve their business. Despite the ridiculous antics Clay takes on during the party, in order to prove his worth to his sister, the wide array of motivations and relatable characters in the comedy encourages viewers to become invested in the business’ potential growth and success.

The casting of ‘Office Christmas Party’s lead actors, notably Bateman, Miller, Aniston and McKinnon, helped infuse the outrageous comedy with a natural chemistry. Bateman once again naturally grounds the erratic behavior that surrounds his character, which allows Josh to serve as the source of wisdom to Clay’s shocking decision-making, which Miller charismatically brings to the screen. Much like her character of Dr. Julia Harris in the ‘Horrible Bosses’ films, Aniston once again created another daring antagonistic force in Carol, who fearlessly stops at nothing to achieve what she wants.

McKinnon also created one of the film’s most alluring and memorable characters, as she unwittingly brings the most stunning moments of comic relief. Mary is the epitome of the typical worker who isolates herself from her colleagues, as she believes fun is an obstacle to productivity. But once she truly starts to witness the fear that begins to rise in her fellow workers as they try to save their jobs, she starts to believe that people can have fun without threatening their work. The Emmy Award-winning actress instinctively always played the joke in her scenes, whether Mary begins to have fun as she dances as Clay is singing, or deadpans about the latest facts of any situation she and her colleagues are in, no matter how dire the situation has become.

While ‘Office Christmas Party’ doesn’t offer a serious commentary into the genuine ways executives can work to save their companies from the brink of disaster, the film does offer a humorous insight into how colleagues sincerely act with each other, especially during times of stress. The realistic sentiment of trying to find ways of overcoming the feeling of being being marginalized and underappreciated is relatable and surprisingly amusing in the new comedy, which features stand-out performances from Bateman, Miller, Aniston and McKinnon.

Technical: B+

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B+

Written by: Karen Benardello

Watch the official trailer for ‘Office Christmas Party’ below.

Office Christmas Party Movie Review
(L-R): Kate McKinnon as Mary Winetoss, Jason Bateman as Josh Parker, T.J. Miller as Clay Vanstone, Olivia Munn as Tracey Hughes in ‘Office Christmas Party’ by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, and Reliance Entertainment.

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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