Guest Review: Office Christmas Party (2016)

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I haven’t been a huge fan of recent comedy films. There are a few I’ve enjoyed, but mostly they blur together in a mess of pop culture references, gross-out humor, and lazy sexual innuendo. This is exactly what I expected of Office Christmas Party, and that’s exactly what the movie delivered. However, there were a couple performances that made the film at least mildly entertaining.

Office Christmas Party follows a group of employees at a data storage company-specifically Josh (Jason Bateman), Tracey (Olivia Munn), and Clay (T.J. Miller), whose father started the company- in their effort to woo a potential client (Courtney B. Vance) to prevent their branch from being shut down. Their method: throw the most amazing office Christmas party, despite the strict instructions not to do so given by the company’s CEO- Clay’s sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston). As anyone who has seen the trailers would expect, the extravagant affair quickly devolves into a near-bacchanalian revel.

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One of my biggest issues with this movie was one that I’ve had with several comedies that have come out over the past few years: it dates itself. It makes pop culture references that might be funny when the movie comes out (and even that is debatable), but will be irrelevant within a year. At the beginning, a character shows Josh his family Christmas card, where he, his wife, and kids are dressed up as One Direction (aren’t they technically broken up now? Was the scene filmed before that happened?). During a meeting, a disgruntled employee complains about the internet’s obsession with Grumpy Cat (which I’m pretty sure stopped being a relevant meme at least two years ago). During a prayer, Clay asks God to let Prince and David Bowie know how important they were to everyone, referencing specific celebrity deaths that happened THIS YEAR. It’s a nice sentiment, and the shout-out earned a few chuckles from the audience, but even a year from now, this reference will have no context. Having so many jokes that rely so heavily on current pop culture means the humor will fall flat after a very short amount of time.

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My second biggest issue with this movie was Jason Bateman’s character. Not Jason himself-he’s a talented actor who performed well with what he was given-but his bland, middle-aged white guy with the same non-personality as countless other recent comedy; the straight man to the cast of wacky characters. Despite technically being the main character, he could have easily been removed from the film and we wouldn’t lose anything. This movie could have been a lot better if it focused more on Clay trying to run the branch and prove to his sister that he’s capable of being more than just a goofball. T.J. Miller seems capable of handling a bigger role; he was easily the highlight of the movie, and as hilarious as he is, he has a couple genuinely touching moments that show he’s able to do some serious acting. Kate McKinnon was another highlight as Mary, the socially awkward stick-in-the-mud H.R. representative; true, it feels like a character from an SNL skit, but her performance was still fantastic.

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I wouldn’t recommend seeing this in theaters, just because it is so forgettable. If you’re a fan of the cast, it might be worth checking it out on Netflix or whatever other streaming service it ends up on, but there’s no reason to catch it on the big screen.

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Have you seen ‘Office Christmas Party’? Well, what did you think?