A Christmas party and the company’s branch is on the rocks after the CEO has determined that the branch is underperforming. To woo a potential client (and prove that the branch performs well), the most awesome wildest craziest Christmas party is thrown. Antics ensue with an all-star cast, no less.
In chat, we discuss our perspectives on Office Christmas Party. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
jennism (Jenn Ng): So are you ready to PARTY?
taiche (Chris Tai): Our next movie is something that’s been happening a lot around this time of the year: the eponymous OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY!
A sort of blend of The Hangover and Office Space for the corporate clientele.
jennism: This HUGE party reminds me of some corporate perks that I missed out on. Despite working in Silicon Valley, I have yet to attend a huge holiday party as shown in this movie. My personal experience has been just a nice expensive dinner.
taiche: I feel like few have.. or at least maybe the size, but not the mayhem. On the other hand, I’ve been to some… including lavish spendy ones. But also the awkward mid-tier white collar office park ones.
jennism: I have heard of the lavish ones that Google and Facebook hosts. Likely lampooned in the HBO show, Silicon Valley
Office Christmas Party has an all-star cast. In terms of great comedy players
taiche: And echoes of SV, a (admittedly superior) show can be found here. It’s a literal who’s who of comedy television players
jennism: Of course we got our faves: Jason Bateman and Aniston
taiche: People from Arrested Development, Friends, SNL, Silicon Valley, Fresh Off The Boat, etc etc…. and Olivia Munn (and to an ever lesser extent Jamie Chung).
The latter two seem to be only present as window dressing.
jennism: And don’t forget Rob Corddry channel his eager character from HBO’s Ballers
taiche: Jason Bateman can do this role in his sleep.. he’s the go-to guy for the “normal” schlub forced to be the straight man for the wacky cast assembled around him. Haha, yes, basically playing what I at this point would imagine Rob Corddry would be in real life.
jennism: There are some comedy players that just fit within their standard role, which works well in this movie
taiche: So the story is a bit formulaic… kind of like a Revenge of the Nerds meets Project X… throw the craziest party ever. And push the boundaries of the R-rating in theory.
jennism: But I have to say something: DIVERSITY
We talk so much about the issues of gender and ethnicity. And here is an office that actually has DIVERSITY
taiche: Yes! I appreciated that! Even with my digs about OM and JC, there were other females that made their presence a lot more noteworthy.
jennism: This chicago office even has a male asian american!
taiche: Altho he’s got his own parental issues, to put it mildly. (this is in reference to Randall Park’s character… aka the new hire)
The reasons of the titular party are somewhat irrelevant… good leader with heart of gold wants to keep the office together from the evil leader with machinations to shut it all down.
jennism: Women in leadership roles! Women who are expected to be leaders. Although Olivia Munn as the lead engineer was surprising. Does she work well playing that role?
taiche: Well, she was passable here… I’ve always been torn on her. She can do good things, but she’s often too willing to appeal to the lowest common denominator… like her G4 highlights of her swallowing things
jennism: I wasn’t aware of her role as “the geeky girl”, so to me, it felt miscast
taiche: It’s nice to have a female in the role, but she didn’t stand out (even if her work is instrumental to the plot) and I thought she had little chemistry with Jason Bateman. She’s often been typecast as “the hot chick that nerds get in a tizzy over.”
jennism: There was a scene where she was dancing in a fat suit with Jason Bateman’s Josh Parker, the lead technial director
taiche: But she’s contributed to it just as much as anyone else.
jennism: It was a silly scene, but overall, felt uncomfortable
taiche: I enjoyed that scene. It felt… genuine. Too many things in the movie were setups for later things.
jennism: I could tell that the cast had fun making the movie and it showed
taiche: Something gets pointed out, and ok, this’ll be a gag later, etc.
jennism: Yet, the roles felt forced and didn’t feel the persona that they were portraying. But obviously, it’s not that kind of movie
taiche: A lot of stuff is telegraphed, but that seems to be the nature of R-rated comedies. It’s better to take it as a series of individual skits and gags.
jennism: Just that the Olivia Munn’s character Tracey Hughes didn’t work for me. It was just to play a love interest as if every movie needs some romantic tension
taiche: Like Vanessa Bayer and Randall Park, or Rob Corddry and Kate McKinnon. Who once again, like in her work in Ghostbusters, steals the show in a lot of her scenes.
jennism: I almost expected Leslie Jones to make an uncredited guest appearance
taiche: I didn’t actually pick up the names of a lot of the characters in the movie… there was a lot of thin characterization. If they had names, but weren’t well known comedy actors (like the IT guys pestering Karan Soni), I felt they were extraneous. I focused on yay! we’re seeing all-star comedy showdown. Kind of a series of SNL skits with the players bouncing off each other. Also the trailers did give a lot of stuff away.
jennism: Interestingly, there was still more good stuff that the trailers didn’t show. Probably for the fact that some were…on the edge of being X-rated
taiche: Partially because, as I mentioned earlier, there were lots of setups that led into “major moments”… so a lot of them didn’t stand well on their own until the payoffs came. Did you think it was overly raunchy? I suprisingly found it restrained… as restrained as something like this could have been
jennism: At times, it felt like the writers were going through a checklist of Items-That-Should-Be-In-A-Comedy. Not as raunchy as expected. After all, it is the holiday season!
taiche: There were a lot of elements tossed in, that had a brief appearance and then never really hit upon again (reindeer, DJ, etc). Yeah, it’s certainly formulaic, and I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff that was on the cutting room floor.
jennism: Many sight gags
taiche: Be sure to stay through the credits for some extra outtakes.
jennism: It’s as if the writers just sat in a room and brainstormed how to make a holiday party the best ever. Then toss in a bit of “what could go wrong”. A missed opportunity was satire of this whole tradition
taiche: Yes, the focus was on how crazy can we depict an office christmas party, not much deeper than that.
jennism: Not much poking fun at the idea of office work and social aspects. Or even the idea that some people keep their personal/work lives separate. Besides the mysterious girlfriend bit.
taiche: Yeah, except for McKinnon’s HR lady, after awhile it just turned into a frat party or house party or club party, etc.
jennism: I appreciated her comments on dress and decorum. And thoughts on sexual harassment
taiche: That felt intimately tied to the OFFICE in the title
jennism: As far as I know, most holiday parties in Silicon Valley often take place in non-office venues. What happened here? As one character points out, IT LOOKS LIKE THE OFFICE
…despite the holiday decorations
taiche: Noooo… it depends on the size of the company
jennism: In my experience, holiday parties typically occur offsite. At restaurants or other venues, rarely ever at the office unless there are budget issues
taiche: I’ve had plenty of office experiences where there’s light decoration throughout the building, but ultimately the “party” is in the “town hall” or cafeteria area of the building
jennism: Which is probably the reason here
taiche: Cheaper that way, and HR can keep a closer eye on things.
jennism: The cookies and punch experience? as depicted in a calmer moment later in the movie. I am sure there was a moment where the characters were thinking: so this is how sedate and reasonable Christmas party is like
taiche: Food trays, unlocking the wine fridge. some light music and games
jennism: I have never been in a company where the alcohol is locked up. Peer pressure keeps everyone in check
taiche: Yeah, open bar throughout the work week isn’t always a good idea
jennism: But perhaps the greater world don’t trust their employees to behave responsibly
taiche: Again, depends on the size of company I suppose.
jennism: What is interesting is that the movie depicts a job of twentysomethings. It was, at its essence, too wild for me
taiche: Also newer millennial focused companies have obviously upended typical stereotypes about the office environment.
jennism: And in this party, there was an incredible lack of FREE FOOD
taiche: There was FOOD?!
jennism: no food in the party!
taiche: all i saw was drink
jennism: just lots of freeflowing alcohol, like eggnog
So essentially in this party, all you do is dance, take drugs (if you find the right person), drink, swing on holiday lights, and…”chat”
taiche: Pretty much!
jennism: That sounds like any bar in the world
taiche: Yep, hence my earlier comment on how it just turned into a frat/house/club party
jennism: So did you think that it was hilarious? was it a worthwhile comedy?
taiche: I thought it was amusing… I laughed a few times, cringed a few times. It doesn’t have to be seen in the theater, except for the topicality that it takes place during the holidays. It mostly exists to serve up sight gags and occasional raunch, but there’s nothing deeper to it. Certainly more enjoyable with some “illicit pharmaceuticals” if you know what I mean.
jennism: It’s a straightforward title
taiche: I feel like the high concept and frequent gags, but somewhat squandered potential of the setting and characters reminded me of Neighbors. So I think that’s a decent measuring stick.
jennism: What was the best scene?
taiche: For me, two words, ICE SCULPTURE. Equally best sight gag and inappropriate raunch, but totally predictable and an out of character moment.
jennism: Interestingly, as a proponent of diversity, it was those small moments that stuck out for me. Jennifer Aniston’s moment as breaking stereotypes of the weaker gender. Like talking her way into a club about and knocking out some baddies
The whole idea of underestimating someone “made out of smart water and salad”
I enjoyed her conversation with the uber driver.
jennism: And there was that scene in the airport lounge with her and a misbehaving child. She calls Santa to talk about the child’s misbehavior. Probably taps into the frustrations that we have about misbehaving kids
taiche: Ohhhh YES
That was actually my favorite single scene. I wanted more of that… “horror”
jennism: Sometimes we have our dreams satisfied in movies
taiche: Would you have wanted to attend this OCP?
jennism: Just to watch. I would wanted the ability to be invisible and float through walls to observe the antics. But that’s why I love movies, because we are that silent ghost knowing everything.
taiche: Passive observer!
jennism: Great moment by Jillian Bell as a pimp. Because she is unexpected choice. But she upends the stereotype of a male pimp. Her weakness though? Same as any pimps in the world: getting too deep. It wasn’t because of her gender at all.
The bow that ties up the movie. Typical, but you know, it’s this movie. It’s not meant to be nuanced at all, but there were missed opportunities.
So See ET There?
taiche: See it for the impressive all-star cast that has a fun time riffing off each other’s comedy personas.
jennism: See it there for a change from a typical holiday tradition. Although I can see this one being a just a gentle twist on tradition. I personally recommend Die Hard as the perfect holiday movie
taiche: DIE HARD: BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVER.
SeeETThere: 6/10 desecrated ice sculptures.
jennism: SeeETThere: 7/10 desecrated ice sculptures
So there it is!
taiche: Yes, it’s there. HAPPY HOLIDAZE!
jennism: Happy non-denominational holiday, that is!
Office Christmas Party
When the CEO tries to close her hard-partying brother’s branch, he and his chief technical officer must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs.
Directors: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Writers: Laura Solon, Justin Malen
Stars: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, T.J. Miller, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon