Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance and Jason Bateman are part of a terrific ensemble cast that is stuck in a dead-end movie. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
The new comedy “Office Christmas Party” begs an obvious question: Is watching it more fun than actually attending an office Christmas party? The answer: only if your workplace’s annual gathering finds you checking your watch a lot, wondering how such good people wound up in something so uninteresting and slapdash, and calculating when you can leave and have a drink. (Hey, I don’t know your life. Or maybe I do.)
“Office Christmas Party” is one of those movies that rounds up a terrific cast and then leaves them stranded with nothing to do — like, well, maybe some people at your office. It’s the holiday season at the Chicago branch of the tech firm Zenotek, where the sexy-Scrooge CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) wants layoffs and shutdowns, to the dismay of her brother Clay (T.J. Miller), the branch president who has, according to a colleague, “the mind of a drunk baby.” How are Clay and chief tech officer Josh (Jason Bateman) to attract new business (in the form of a bigwig client played by Courtney B. Vance) and avoid despair? An epic Christmas party, complete with snow machines, rented reindeer, photo booths and enough booze to rival the Chicago river.
That’s basically the plot — so once the party is in full swing, the movie has nowhere to go. And it goes there, while the cast gamely finds some scattered funny moments, particularly Kate McKinnon as a holiday sweater’d, by-the-book HR lady (“I know why you took a medical leave!” she dramatically hisses, between her teeth, to an employee), and Miller (HBO’s “Silicon Valley”), who’s got an irresistible way of delivering lines as if they escaped by accident. It’s fun to spend time with these performers, but you wish they were invited to a better party.
Movie Review ★★
‘Office Christmas Party,’ with Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Jillian Bell, Vanessa Bayer, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Sam Richardson, Jamie Chung, Randall Park, Kate McKinnon. Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, from a screenplay by Justin Malen, Laura Solon and Dan Mazer. 105 minutes. Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity. Several theaters.