By satirizing the coarsened culture’s vulgarity, Office Christmas Party, like Ant-Man and Deadpool, uses wit and crude comedy to score a point about simple human decency. It’s disgusting and it’s preposterous, but, packed with a talented cast topped by Jason Bateman (Zootopia), it works.
The movie’s meaning, wispy as it is, lies in the movie’s generic title, which is generic to make its point. So, the movie’s based on an annual celebration which political correctness has stamped out, one of scads of sad facts that makes otherwise decent people want to overcorrect and overcompensate and trash the need for any fundamental rules for civilized people (i.e., President-elect Trump). Trump as leader is what happens when you say ‘screw having rules!’
Office Christmas Party provides a version which happens only in the movies.
Perfectly, it happens in that Windy City, Chicago. This allows for its pathetic, bureaucratic and fictitious tech company that’s going down the tubes, the sameness that pervades Chicago and its urban industrial Midwestern bluntness. Everyone in the city and at this company is to some extent cold, biting and miserable. They barely work, let alone communicate about work, and when they do it’s with severe profanity and headphones. The women are especially disgusting and domineering. The men are like mutants amid the matriarchy, ruled by Jennifer Aniston (reuniting with Bateman 10 years after their Chicago-based romantic comedy, The Break-Up) as the ice queen psychobitch who reads The Girl on the Train and cuts everyone down. One office male has been reduced to fetishizing his heterosexual desire in pure infantilism and mother-lust. And he’s one of the good guys.
Thus, it becomes clear off the top that Office Christmas Party exists to send political correctness up, way up, and bring crudeness back to earth in service of something, believe it or not, more like Christmas. With biting humor, repulsive sight gags—see Bateman’s boss character go down on an ice sculpture that dispenses egg nog—and hilarious lines skewering everything from boss ladies and feminism to so-called white privilege, the party gets started, keeps going and comes to an outrageous end.
The huge cast includes Olivia Munn as the love interest, a true producer whose idea may save the failing company, and T.J. Miller as the daft but kind division lead, the Aniston character’s brother, which drives the plot. Standouts include Kate McKinnon as a minivan-driving human resources manager. What makes her funny is that she plays everything stupid and ridiculous about HR and its PC regimen exactly as it is, down to her non-denominational holiday sweater. Other standouts include Courtney B. Vance as a client being wooed, Karan Soni as a tech geek and, hliariously, Jillian Bell as a gun-toting pimp named Trina.
Bateman as a divorced but romantic and idealistic taskmaster is the glue that holds the thing together, delivering his lines with an everyman’s blend of irony and optimism that’s not too dry for a change. Aniston (Love Happens, The Iron Giant, She’s Funny That Way), too, a seasoned sitcom performer like Bateman, knows how to play this super-villain role with archness and sincerity. Together, they make this Office Christmas Party seem as though it might be slightly more plausible, which isn’t entirely possible.
If you don’t mind laughing at a movie that makes fun of HR, PC, Jesus Christ, kinky sex and calling God “Her” and, more to the point, you like the idea of prayers for Prince and David Bowie, having an office party and saying “Merry Christmas!” this might be the movie to see this weekend. For what the world needs right now—a laugh out loud—Office Christmas Party serves a fine shot of black humor.