Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman reunite with The Switch directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck for a holiday comedy based on a story by the guys who wrote The Hangover movies. Yes, this is pretty much what you expect it will be: a clumsily written lark that strains for gross-out gags. But it also manages to keep the audience laughing, simply because the cast is up for it.
It's set in the Chicago branch of a technology firm, where the playful director Clay (T.J. Miller) has created a lively atmosphere but is losing money. So his CEO sister Carol (Aniston) drops in to tell him she's planning to shut down the branch. Clay and manager Josh (Bateman) have one last hope: to land a big client (Courtney B. Vance), so they invite him to their epic Christmas party, which is also designed to assure the staff that everything is fine. Helping with the plan are the IT expert Tracey (Olivia Munn) and the HR director Mary (Kate McKinnon). And no one is surprised when the festivities begin to spin crazily out of control.
Frankly, the party itself is the weakest thing about the movie, as it's blown up far beyond credibility, and never given much attention in the narrative. Instead, the through-line is the wacky caper involving the central characters, played by a gang of actors who are experts at improvisation, so they continually throw amusing bits of unexpected comedy at the audience. The winner is McKinnon, who is consistently hysterical, stealing every scene as she did in Ghostbusters. But Munn's acerbic wit and Miller's endearing nuttiness give her a run for her money. As does Rob Corddry as a chucklehead colleague. By comparison, Aniston and Bateman anchor the film as the vaguely more grounded figures. Although Carol is a pretty nasty piece of work, we have no doubt that everyone will wear her down in the end.
Continue reading: Office Christmas Party Review
Straight from Swingers, Ron Livingston makes a surprisingly good Everyman as Peter, so sick of his job ("In a week, I'd say I do 15 minutes of real work.") that he goes to a hypnotherapist for relaxation treatment. Of course (and the trailer doesn't tell you this), the therapist dies while Peter is under, leaving him in an ultra-relaxed state without a care in the world. (What's particularly funny is that Office Space was shot in high-tech ghetto north of my old hometown of Austin, Texas, where the "go-getter" attitude is severely frowned-upon.)
Continue reading: Office Space Review