Clay Vanstone (T. J. Miller) is the head of Zenotek – an IT company faced with tough competition. His uptight sister, & CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down the branch to save costs. Clay and his Chief Technical Officer Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) set out to save their jobs and the company, by trying to land a big client –Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance). Against Carol’s orders, Clay and Josh choose to throw a Christmas party to impress Walter, but their plan backfires as the festivities spiral out of control.
The title is a dead giveaway, and you’re fully aware of what you’re getting into. Surprisingly, the initial build up is brimming with promise primarily due to experienced comedians behind their characters. Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Randall Park and Vanessa Bayer have become staples in iconic comedies and sitcoms. Jennifer Aniston’s tough-as-nails, no-nonsense, ‘horrible boss’ isn’t exactly unique but is played to perfection. Olivia Munn tends to be a wildcard, though her role here is suitably restrained.
An unusual addition to this mix is Courtney B. Vance, who usually plays stern, steadfast roles. His character switch midway signals the turning point in the movie, as the party kicks into high gear. But this also forecasts the eventual descent into corporate clichés, sexual debauchery and flatulent humor which prevents ‘Office Christmas Party’ from exceeding expectations. The last act races to the finish line for the lack of a cohesive plot, thereby squandering a strong start.
The humdrum corporate setup has been the backdrop to several comedies where the most dreary and lackluster employees eventually showcase their boisterous nature as a form of defiance to drudgery. ‘Office Christmas Party’ forcefully takes that idea several notches higher into raunchy and often puzzling territory, and this is precisely where it falters. While there are ample gags and hilarious situations that warrant genuine laugh-out-loud moments, the movie gradually resorts to far-fetched shenanigans simply with the intent of putting an emphatic ‘X’ in this Christmas comedy. Watch it, but unless you’d like to get fired, or even arrested for criminal behavior, don’t follow its examples at your upcoming office party.