Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"Office Christmas Party"

 1.5 / 5  

May Santa strike me down if I'm lying, but I promise I arrived to Office Christmas in a jovial mood, ready to have a good time.  So, you may hereby consider me a Scrooge.

By the end of the movie, I was the sour-faced guy who comes in at one minute past midnight, turns on all the lights, unplugs the speakers and shouts, "Go home!"  If being that guy prevents you from seeing Office Christmas Party, I can live with that.

I wanted to like it, I was reay to like it, I even laughed in the first few minutes -- I laughed multiple times, and loudly.  But Office Christmas Party is a movie made for people who think the skits on "Saturday Night Live" need to go on a lot longer and be more uncomfortable.  It's a one-joke idea that would barely withstand the stress of being stretched to seven minutes.  Imagine what 105 minutes will do.

Office Christmas Party tries to be another in the series of Grownups Behaving Badly movies that started with The Hangover and Bridesmaids and lately has included Bad Moms and Sisters.  Those were funny movies.  This isn't.

Nothing could put me more in the Christmas spirit than to say that Office Christmas Party is more than a lump of coal at the bottom of a dingy stocking.  There's something really wrong when Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry and Olivia Munn cannot, individually or collectively, earn more than a couple of chuckles.  And let me make this clear: There are a couple of chuckles in Office Christmas Party.  A couple.

There are also a lot of really dull moments, as the movie labors to find a story on which to hinge the zaniness, and ends up with a rather bizarre one, about a company that makes, of all things, Internet servers and computer storage (I.T. people may well tell me they are the same thing, I don't know, and I didn't care too much before the movie and don't care afterward, no matter how much the word "server" has been in the news recently).  They've lost a lot of business, but they're really nice people.  The woman who runs the company is really not nice.  She's played by Jennifer Aniston, continuing a very ill-advised career move to play "against type" and be mean and spiteful, as if to prove the remarkably sexist view that beautiful women have something wrong with them.  She comes into town spitting venom and pulling a carry-on suitcase to tell the company that she's going to fire 40% of the employees.  She also tells them they can't have their office Christmas party.  That's what the name of the film refers to, in case you needed clarification.

The bosses, played by Miller and Bateman, plead with her not to be so mean.  In a last-ditch effort to save the company, they decide to have a really, really, really, really, really, really big office Christmas party and invite a big potential client (Courtney B. Vance, also mostly unfunny).

One of the office workers is a dweeby Indian guy (no racial stereotypes here) who wants to impress his friends by having a really hot girlfriend, so he hires a prostitute (no sexual stereotypes here), and there's a subplot about the prostitute and her crazy pimp (who is -- funny, right?! -- a woman).  It's a desperate subplot in a desperate movie.

Throughout it all, there is a harried, repressed HR woman, played by McKinnon, who gets the laughs because she's so backward and naive and she wears her hair like a helmet and dresses appropriately in the office while chastising one of the workers who is showing cleavage.

The office Christmas party gets out of hand.  Grown people swing from the rafters and drink too much and do drugs and try very hard to act silly.  They come across as childish and stupid.  Grown people, even those who have been imbibing, don't act like this.  In real life, it comes across as sad, pathetic behavior, but on screen it's just wasting time.

Which isn't to say, I feel a strange obligation to repeat, that there aren't laughs.  They are rare, they are strained, and maybe the biggest one comes when Jennifer Aniston looks directly at a little girl and says, angrily and bitterly, "F--- you."  That's funny, right?

Ho ho ho.

Viewed Dec. 6, 2016 -- Arclight Hollywood


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