Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug use and graphic nudity
Screenplay by Justin Malen, Laura Solon and Dan Mazer, story by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore and Timothy Dowling
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck
Starring Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance and more
I think Hollywood has finally found “Bad Santa’s” good twin.
Of course, whether that’s a good thing depends on whether you prefer to hang out with the good twin or the evil twin. Either way, “Office Christmas Party” is definitely the other half of some raunchy Christmas movie equation I hadn’t known existed, balancing a healthy dose of debauchery with some genuinely good intentions and the sort of hopeful, healing and redemptive arc that Christmas movies are known for. If you ignore the various private parts, it’s actually sort of sweet.
The plot follows a well-meaning but whimsically troublemaking branch manager who has to save his branch from several Christmas layoffs ordered by his sister, the company’s CEO. In order to do that, he and his loyal employees have to land a big client before his sister lands in London. To do that, they decide to throw a killer Christmas party.
The party is the excuse the movie uses to jam in the raunchiness expected in these sort of films, which has the odd effect of corralling it to a certain extent. Yes, the movie does offer a far more detailed look at naked people than I was at all prepared for, but the majority of the debauchery happens in a confined space between people who are very drunk. It’s a justification and a limit to the debauchery, all at once.
(The one exception to this is Kate McKinnon’s HR manager, who is clearly having fun here but feels like she wandered in from a slightly wilder movie. Rather than make me long for that mythical movie, it just gave her that small, extra edge of funny in this one.)
Other aspects of “Office Christmas Party,” however, are exactly what you’d expect to find in any Christmas movie. The scrappy group saving the day against impossible odds. People getting second chances. Family overcoming their differences to come together in the spirit of the season. Despite the setting, many of the tropes are played absolutely straight, which is hardly the most revolutionary filmmaking but ends up surprisingly satisfying to appreciators of the Christmas film genre.
If you’re a “Bad Santa” fan, of course, the movie is probably unbearably tame and therefore uninteresting. If you’re a Hallmark fan, it’s still probably far too wild for you and it’s probably best that you stay away. One of the eternal complaints about anything mid-road is that it’s not committed enough to one extreme or another, and instead comes off as a watered-down version of either.
For some people, though, the best things are found in that balance. If you’re one of those people, you may want to give “Office Christmas Party” a try.