by Leona

It’s a riot of a party. A likeable ensemble cast gamely pulls out one gag after another to bring us a comedy peppered with pop-culture references, humour and of course, Murphy’s Law. What starts off as a well-intentioned Christmas party rapidly spirals into a series of unfortunate events with hangovers to boot. 

Office Christmas Party revolves around Zenotek, a tech company on the brink of being shut down. Run by a young, ineffective but fun-loving boss Clay (T.J. Miller), the firm’s Chicago branch is kept afloat by two indispensable members of his staff- right hand man Josh (Jason Bateman) and developer genius Tracey (Olivia Munn). Enters the boss lady--acting CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston) whose contempt of her brother Clay, being their late father’s favourite, adds a dash of bitterness to her already sullen character. She sweeps into the office, cancels the annual Christmas party and orders that the office be folded unless they can land a big client. This prompts the trio Clay, Josh and Tracey on a quest to woo potential client (Courtney B. Vance) only to be rejected. In a desperate attempt to change his mind, they decide to revive the canned Christmas party and invite him, promising the best time he’ll ever have. But when the party starts to get out of hand, things go seriously awry. 

The cast breathes life into a predictable storyline filled with office clichés, tacky stunts and awkward dance-off sequences. Miller and Kate McKinnon (as uptight HR head Mary) are obvious standouts. Miller endears with his man-child behaviour which makes you root for his character Clay rather than brand him a loser. McKinnon’s over-the-top portrayal of your typical stiff HR executive is relatable and funny, but it’s when she loosens up and steps onto the wild side that she truly shows her comedic brilliance. The supporting cast, including Karan Soni (whom you may remember as the lovelorn cab driver Dopinder in Deadpool) as the timid boss bullied by his subordinates, Fresh off the Boat’s Randall Park as the finance guy with a mom fetish, and a grumpy Rob Corddry as a tantrum-prone employee who is miserable at his job, adds colour to the already wild ride. 

Jennifer Aniston channels the same evil, manipulative nature (minus the lechery) of her character in Horrible Bosses, a role she admitted to being a nice change after years of playing goody two-shoes. She struts around with a little too much confidence, spews scathing one-liners and delivers bad news with a sparkle in her eyes. It’s clear Aniston revels in playing the unbearable tyrant. Though she is evil personified, it’s surprisingly hard to hate Carol, as she leaves the audience wanting to see more of her scenes.

Part of Office Christmas Party’s appeal is how we easily relate with the play on the corporate culture theme. Although brought out outlandishly, we can still identify with its plentiful office jokes and clichés. There’s the office receptionist that does more gossiping than her job, the bookish finance guy jealous of the more popular sales rep, and of course, the rain on everyone’s parade, the HR lady who goes around imposing restrictions on just about anything. Beyond the office setting, you may also relate to topics like frustrated parents allowing their kids to be glued to the tablet in order to get some semblance of their life back, or the lonely chap with an inferior complex paying an escort to act as his girlfriend to gain street cred and respect from his co-workers. The writers worked hard on making sure the audience can connect with the movie.

Pop-culture references from different periods are spread generously throughout the movie. References to Die Hard, a movie set at a Christmas party in an office plaza, are must-haves. Then you have references to David Bowie and Prince performing together in Clay’s prayer, an IT geek pretending to like Gilmore Girls to get better acquainted with a female co-worker, nods to Grumpy Cat, mentions of the now defunct One Direction and many more.

Like a Christmas turkey filled with stuffing, Office Christmas Party is a feel-good festive treat that’s easy to digest. It may not have a deep insightful storyline, but it delivers on laughs which makes it an ideal movie to put on when you have friends over for a gathering, or if you’re in need of some comic relief.

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