Office Christmas Party has just enough laughs to nudge a positive recommendation. The all-star cast of comedy veterans have good chemistry. It powers the film when the premise gets overplayed and the gags wear thin. There’s no danger of overthinking here. This is a slapstick, gross-out, sex comedy; a few chuckles of yuletide mayhem that should fare well enough at the box office.
Jason Bateman stars as Josh Parker, the CTO of Xenotech. His boss (T.J. Miller) is a man-child, who’s domineering older sister (Jennifer Aniston) has had enough of his antics. She’s threatening to shut down their entire regional office unless he deliver significant growth by New Year’s Day. She’s also cancelled the office non-denominational holiday mixer. Their only hope is to land a whale (Courtney B. Vance), who just happens to enjoy a wild party.
Office Christmas Party has each actor play to type. Jason Bateman is the sarcastic straight man. Miller is the goofball with a perm. Olivia Munn is the beautiful girl who’s just one of the guys. Kate McKinnon the oddball with enough facial contortions to make Jim Carrey envious. Normally I would chalk this up to collecting a paycheck and dialing it in, but the ensemble is likeable. They seem to be having a great time and the mood is infectious. It makes up for long stretches where nothing really happens.
I have to shine a spotlight on Jillian Bell. In a film packed with known stars, this lesser known comedienne steals the show again as the antagonist. I won’t give away her character, but the filmmakers were wise to leave her out of the trailers. She’s an absolute riot, by far the funniest part of the movie. Bell is relatively young, but has been a scene stealer with every supporting role. While she got her start as the likable but extremely weird cat-loving Juggalo Jillian, sometimes lover of Blake, on Workaholics, most audiences will remember her as the villain in 22 Jump Street. Her comic timing and versatility is a standout. She’s on the verge of becoming a star.
Don’t walk into Paramount‘s Office Christmas Party with too many expectations. It’s passably entertaining for a holiday comedy. It’s not a lump of coal or a stocking full of guffaws. The film does run long at one hour and forty-five minutes. It would have been leaner and funnier at a brisk ninety-minutes. Jillian Bell is worth the price of admission. I’d love to see a story with her character as the lead.