To my knowledge, here are basically two kinds of office holiday parties. One occurs during the day, takes place on the premises, involves a ton of high-calorie food including (in my last job’s case) the boss’s famous four-alarm chili, and ends with everyone staggering back to their cubicles, post-prandial gorge. This kind is booze-free for obvious reasons, and tends to be described nowadays as a holiday get-together or some such politically correct phrase. The second sort – which is the kind featured in “Office Christmas Party,” takes place after hours, and whether held on the premises or not, does involve alcohol. These tend to be much livelier affairs at least, if unlike the one in the movie, no one has the cloud of probable job loss hanging over them. But with the probability of losing their jobs due to their Internet company’s branch’s mediocre numbers, Jason Bateman, who plays a newly divorced “safe” guy and his colleagues are going to need a lot more than a few drinks to make the party successful. Particularly, if they want to bring investor Courtney B. Vance on board and avoid getting caught out by the head honcho (Jennifer Aniston), who plays the resident Scrooge.
When the movie begins, Christmas cheer is in short supply, and not just with Jason, who is too despondent to properly realize that his tech genius colleague (Olivia Munn) may have feelings for him. There’s friction between Karan Soni and his two subordinates who refuse to believe that he really does have a model girlfriend. There’s also tension between Rob Corddry (the office big mouth) who enjoys winding up Kate McKinnon’s rule-following human resources manager, who for her part, is busy enforcing the dress code. (Her sweater in the opening scene puts Colin Firth’s in “Bridget Jones’s Diary” to shame.) The mood goes further south when Jennifer arrives to scold her brother (T.J. Miller) who’s the boss of that branch and inform him that everyone’s job is in jeopardy. The solution? Invite Courtney to the biggest, most awesome after-hours Christmas party, so he can see how cool their “office culture” is. But with a snowstorm that night, they risk the wrath of Jennifer, and to complicate things, there’s a hooker without a heart of gold, her manager, a high speed car chase, and a citywide blackout that makes everyone lose Internet service. So there’s going to be plenty of trouble on the way to a resolution.
Why is there a hooker in the first place, you might ask. Well, because it turns out (gasp) that Karan does not actually have a girlfriend and so must hire one. Both have seen “Pretty Woman,” but I don’t think either has watched “Risky Business,” though perhaps the filmmakers of “Office Christmas Party” have because Karan, T.J. and several other characters wind up entangled in a scheme when it turns out neither hooker nor her manager has a heart of gold. Unlike those two movies, there is little actual sex in “Office Christmas Party,” although there is a scene involving a risqué ice sculpture and mass quantities of eggnog. Like last year’s “Sisters,” the party guests take awhile to get going, but once they do, there’s no stopping them. The plot is slight, but the car chase climax is cool, particularly since there’s not a cop to be found working that night. Which is a good thing, considering the trouble the characters end up in, I guess.