How much eye-rolling can one commit before needing an ophthalmologist for vision care? I think I must have come close watching “Office Christmas Party,” which also triggered dangerous levels of griping bellyaches and suffocating sighs. The yuletide’s second R-rated gross-out comedy proves that even when “Bad Santa 2” makes you think you’ve reached the bottom, you haven’t yet hit the sub-basement.
Co-directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck team with any number of amusing performers here, wasting all but a couple in anachronistic roles where we’ve seen them often before. Jason Bateman is Josh, the design honcho for the Chicago branch of a big but struggling tech company. He’s an unflappable straight man for all manner of shenanigans from his foxy co-worker/potential love interest, Tracey (Olivia Munn); their party animal boss, Clay (T.J. Miller); the goody two shoes HR head (Kate McKinnon) and various other peripheral characters. Each one seems to have wandered out of earlier satires of corporate 9-to-5 life, producing a catalog of cliches without a smidgen of fresh humor or depth.
The team is hoping to avoid a threatened staff slashing by the cobra-cool CEO Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who happens to be Clay’s big sister. Their mission is to win a big contract from Walter (Courtney B. Vance), a button-down buyer from a top electronics chain. They plan to do this by hosting him at the most butt-kicking year-end party of all time and forcing him to consume large amounts of intoxicating liquids. That’s a healthy work/life balance for sure.
Act Two has barely begun, and we’re among a couple hundred colleagues waving their freak flags, pairing up naked out of sight and making NSFW body art on the copy machine. What could go wrong? All they have to do is get the strait-laced visitor liquored up and then get him to sign a contract. Of course, the plan soon goes from piece of cake to how the cookie crumbles.
And so does the movie, one of the least original, imaginative and creative of its kind. Bateman brings nothing to his repressed role other than standing beside impending disasters and warning that this is how accidents often happen. Bad things happen concerning cars speeding to the open gap in a lift bridge, people trying to swing Tarzan-style from a rope of holiday lights and partyers swallowing quarts of eggnog from a carved ice statuette of St. Nick, where it pours out from a very R-rated appendage. If you have seen the trailer for the film, you have seen just about every joke, and they work much better in 90 seconds than 105 minutes.
The way the movie was assembled feels like all work and no play, the opposite of the film’s promised fun. The biggest flub is the movie’s misuse of McKinnon, a comic chameleon who could be this generation’s laughing gas version of Meryl Streep. Here she’s reduced to a running gag about her flatulent digestive tract. Her work here, like the film, promises a memorable shebang and delivers a forgettable bust.
‘OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY’
1.5 out of 4 stars
Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity.