by Alan Yudman

You look at the cast list for OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY and you wonder how this movie could be anything but a hit. T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman, Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, Rob Corddry, Jennifer Anniston, Vanessa Bayer, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell… that’s quite a list of funny people. Well, don’t judge a book by its cover or a film by its cast.

Miller is the head of the Chicago office of a big software/computer company. Sort of like Oracle. He’s the son of the company’s founder. His motto is happy employees are good employees. Well, that isn’t true in life or in this movie. He’s more concerned with morale than the bottom line. The company’s new CEO notices. She also happens to be his sister (Jennifer Anniston). She is everything Miller is not. Driven, career oriented and ruthless. She comes by the Chicago office in full Grinch, prepared to shut the branch down because they, well, suck. Bateman is the head of software development for the branch. Munn is the chief software engineer. Corddry is head of customer service. McKinnon is the HR lady. Bayer is Miller’s secretary.

Miller has one shot, convince Vance, a buyer, to give him his business. So Miller’s plan is to throw the best office Christmas party ever. To show Vance, who seems depressed, the best time of his life. Anniston had cancelled the regular party so this is all going on behind her back. Miller uses his own money to finance the party. It’s all the money has in the world, having used his fortune to buy things for his employees to keep morale up.

So you can tell, there are a lot of balls in the air here. But also lots of potential for comedy, especially as the party gets going. And the movie takes advantage of it. But it misses the mark by “that much” (hold your thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart and you’ll get the idea). The jokes are funny, but could be funnier. The story is interesting, but not quite enough to draw you in. The cast does what it can with the material, but it is simply not that funny. Chuckles not guffaws. Credits that include three people for screenplay and three for story may be part of the problem. This isn’t a TV show where you bounce ideas around a writers room for a 30 minute sitcom. This needs to be more focused.

The character that stole it for me was Jillian Bell who plays a pimp. She seems nice, but then you realize she is batshit crazy. It is a genius performance by a comic actress with a lot of talent and potential.

Too bad the rest of the movie isn’t that inspired. I’ll just stay home and miss this OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY.

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