Office Christmas Party

Year: 2016
Production Co: Amblin Partners
Director: Josh Gordon/Will Speck
Writer: Justin Malen/Laura Solon/Dan Mazer/Jon Lucas
Cast: Jason Bateman, TJ Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B Vance, Abbey Lee, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Randall Park, Jamie Chung, matt Walsh, Ben Falcone

No, I certainly didn't expect worthy drama, Oscar-level performances or even the sharpest comedy ever written. I expected what that image on the poster promised – a bunch of buttoned down corporate types cutting loose and misbehaving at a blowout end of year bender with all the booze, sex and seasonal gags it should have contained.

Office Christmas Party actually delivers about 45 minutes of that, the rest of it feeling like they were halfway through production before they realised there wasn't enough story to sustain all the jokes they'd thought up or the running time they'd committed to.

A technology firm run by eternal manchild Clay (TJ Miller) is losing money and being threatened with closure by no nonsense CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who happens to be Clay's sister. To add insult to injury, she's also revoking end of year bonuses and orders the annual Christmas bash cancelled.

Clay's friend, mid level manager Josh (Jason Bateman, playing Jason Bateman) has one chance. If they can land a contract from a big client headed by Walter (Courtney B Vance) they can save the branch, so they conspire to throw the biggest, best Christmas party ever behind Carol's back to convince him they're a good company to work with.

That's the inciting incident that leads to all the scenes and motifs you expect. Pat characters from the OH&S obsessed HR woman (Kate McKinnon) to the party guy waiting to be unleashed (Rob Corddry) are perfectly cast and you get most of the jokes you expect about wild parties that only happen in the movies.

In fact that central premise gives you more than you expect. There's the loser who hires a spaced out hooker (Aussie Abbey Lee) to convince his coworkers he has a hot girlfriend, Clay's secretary and her search for a normal man and about four other character subplots that are woven throughout the party.

While all those subplots are going on you assume they're just disposable fodder for laughs, but the party (and the movie) runs out of steam and sets up a bizarre third act that brings some of the weirder subplots together.

One is that beautiful and talented programmer Tracey (Olivia Munn) has invented a wifi-anywhere system that will come up in the strangest way at the end of the film.

The other is that is turns into a chase thriller courtesy of the hooker subplot. Her faux-friendly, actually fearsome female pimp (Jillian Bell) takes Clay captive after he gets too drunk to do anything, determined to rob him of all the money he's boasting about having.

By the time all that has come together, Office Christmas Party has long since run out of juice. If it had the good grace to try harder with the jokes until then, it might be a little bit more watchable but as usual, the handful of decent gags are all in the trailer.

Someone greenlit this based on a one-sentence pitch at a studio somewhere, then they paid peanuts to some hack to write a script around it, recruited some otherwise gifted comic actors to show up and pointed a camera at it.

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