Let’s be honest: no one actually likes the office Christmas party. You go because it’s there. You like a couple of people you work with, and after a few badly mixed cocktails it’s enjoyable enough. But you never really lose the sense that you’d be having a better time somewhere else. All of the above is true of ‘Office Christmas Party’, too. So let’s credit Josh Gordon and Will Speck’s mildly diverting but shapeless seasonal comedy with capturing the spirit of its subject.
Like most drunken workplace gatherings, this episodic tale of a failing Chicago tech company attempting to reverse their fortunes by throwing a massive Christmas blowout is unruly but never truly wild. The jokes feel cautious – upgrading bums-on-photocopiers to dicks-in-3D-printers (so twenty-first century!) is about as subversive as it gets.
But even if its script could have benefited from a few more rounds of gag inspection, the film’s ensemble of easy-going comedy pros are in a generally merry mood. Jason Bateman, forever the frazzled American everyman, is an affable anchoring presence, while the likes of Kate McKinnon (as a nightmarish HR manager with a hideous line of non-denominational holiday jumpers) and TJ Miller (as Bateman’s puppyishly dim but well-meaning boss) freewheelingly mug around him. Jennifer Aniston delivers the saltiest lines as the company’s ruthlessly humourless CEO, though it’s a coal-lump of a part. And in a film that sporadically attempts to progressively satirise PC workplace culture, the sour smell of misogyny here pervades the mulled wine aroma.