There is no denying that Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s latest collaboration, Office Christmas Party, is a perfectly accomplished comedy that will pass the time. But in a genre that requires innovation and intelligence to truly stand out from the crowd, it comes as a disappointment, particularly when considering the filmmaking duo once helmed the underrated Blades of Glory. Needless to say expectations were suitably raised in accordance with their previous work, and in doing so, makes this generic endeavour all the more underwhelming.
As we ready ourselves for our own excruciating parties that always seem to turn up at this time of year (funny that), it’s the first time to indulge in somebody else’s, with Clay (T.J. Miller) intending to throw the biggest, most bombastic party during the festive season, and for good reason – as his sister, and CEO of the company, Carol (Jennifer Aniston) has warned her sibling his branch may be closed, unless they bring in a ludicrous amount of money in the next 24 hours. An impossible task, but with a multi-million dollar contract on the table, it’s one worth fighting for. So Clay, alongside his colleagues Tracey (Olivia Munn) and Josh (Jason Bateman) decide to invite their potential new business partner to the party, in the hope that if it’s as incredible as they’re preparing it to be, they may just win this deal and save their firm.
In a similar vein to Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the comedy within this picture derives from the age of the protagonists, who really ought to know better. With Project X the party getting tragically out of hand narrative wasn’t as funny because they’re all kids, and it happens. But with adults, some with kids of their own, to see them let loose in such a way and lose all inhibitions is glorious. It is, however, the film’s paramount joke and perhaps not strong enough to ensure this production is a winner – though the constant look of bemusement smacked across the face of Bateman, who represents the viewer in this instance – as he so often does – is constantly amusing, and all the more funny when considering that behind that expression is a man equally prone to destructive tendencies.
With such an ensemble cast it’s a credit to the directors that they’ve balanced the actors well and utilised each respective talent’s sensibilities as a comic performer, but the narrative is the key reason behind this film falling short. The addition of guns and car chases just feels cheap and superfluous; rather than thrive in any understatement and the humanity of the characters at hand, they just opt for inane action to pass the time. It’s as though they’ve just run out of ideas. Well, on this evidence, perhaps they did.