Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Review: Office Christmas Party

Office Christmas Party
Cert: 15 / 105 mins / Dir. Will Speck & Josh Gordon / Trailer

Okay, much like the film itself, this review of it will feature some unnecessarily bad language; sporadic and largely inoffensive in the grand scheme of things, but acting as a lexical placeholder so that nothing more meaningful has to be written. Like I said, as per…



BOB: So Terry, we're making progress here, finally. Our seasonal comedy has got eight producers, six writers and two directors working on it, as well as a crowded cast-list, over-headlined by supporting actors. You've had four weeks to come up with a title, what have you got?

TERRY: Well, just erm… how does this grab you?

TERRY slides a note over the desk to BOB.

BOB: …how does what grab me? This is a sheet of paper with three words written on it. In fact, this is the sheet of paper I gave to you a month ago with the broadest possible outline for the movie scrawled over it. That's my writing. It just says "Office Christmas Party". That's when you asked what the film was about and I had to distil it as much as I could because I was on the phone to the distributor at the time. That's the setting of the film, the background, the concept. Where's my fucking title, Terry?

TERRY: …it's the simplification of-

BOB: I'll tell you what's simple, Terry. YOU. You've had a fucking month to think of a zippy title to attract the 25-35 crowd, high on Christmas cheer and the 'fuck it, it's December, let's go out watch a movie and get hammered' spirit which comes of working with people you hate for the other eleven and a half months of the year and you've done precisely fuck-not-nothing! As a title - an actual film title - "Office Christmas Party" is perfunctory, reductive and unimaginative. It shows complete contempt for an audience that we think needs everything spelling out for them, in the largest letters and lowest-common-denominator sight-gags. In fact, I'd bet a pound to a fucking penny that presenting this in a title-sequence will consist of one shot with the text laid in a single line across the screen in Helvetica bold, solid white, belying any irony while displaying the total lack of imagination that's gone into the whole, sorry project…

TERRY: I've read the script, Bob. That title works.

BOB: …Yeah, fair point. Scotch?

The chosen title, and perceived logic behind it*1, tells you all you need to know about the film.

And y'know what? The film's not awful. It's just a series of disparate sketches, some far more successfully executed than others, awkwardly tacked together with a screenplay so mechanical it makes Optimus Prime look like something you'd buy at the Deli-counter. If you like people swearing, people falling over, people over-acting drunk/high, too many dick-jokes and the occasional boob, this is your film. Sure, you can get better elsewhere, even with the same overall lack of dignity, but Office Christmas Party is a movie every bit as forced and clichéd as the workplace gatherings it claims to be satirising.

The weirdest thing is that it features a cast you've enjoyed elsewhere struggling through the half-written script as if they're reading it for the first time, playing themselves all the while. Kate McKinnon, TJ Miller and Karan Soni coast on the charm they've accrued this year in much better movies, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston continue to be stuck in the rut of mediocrity to which they've become accustomed, while genre-regulars Jillian Bell and Rob Corddry lend the kind of screen support that will do them no favours in climbing higher up the ladder. At least Olivia Munn is moving in the right comedic direction. Just.

Not without smirks and a couple of guffaws, just nowhere near enough to cover the cracks which make up the entire rest of it. While it pushes (way too) hard for the happy-everyone ending, the film doesn't even try to tug at the audience's heart-strings. This, I suppose, is a blessing.

For best results watch once only and in An Advanced State Of Refreshment™.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The kind of thing that Universal usually wheel out at this time of year. Even though this isn't Universal's. Sure feels like it, though..

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No, this is a £3 DVD from Asda while you're picking up pizza, some beer and a bottle of cheap vodka.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This movie stars that Jamie Chung, and she was in Suckerpunch with Oscar 'Dameron' Isaac.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 and the choice of typeface as well. I'm not making that shit up. Bizarrely, the title-shot in the film uses Helvetica whereas the poster uses Arial. That's how little effort has gone in, here.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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