‘Office Christmas Party’ Is Actually Good?
The year was 2016. The British had voted to leave the European Union, the Zika virus was causing global panic and everyone collectively lost their sh*t when the United States elected their new president — TV personality and human yam, Donald Trump. By December of that year, a lot of folks weren’t in much of a mood for a laugh, with many instead dreading the upcoming holidays and having to spend time with family members who cheered on the Yam Guy when he said he could shoot New Yorkers in the streets without losing a single vote.
It was, to say the least, not the best of times — even less so to release a comedy movie featuring some lighthearted lampooning of political correctness and inappropriate conduct in the workplace.
Looking back now, it makes sense why this movie featuring a stellar comedy cast bombed so spectacularly with critics and audiences alike. Not only did paid critics admit at the time that the current state of things made, well, everything a bit more depressing, but Office Christmas Party also ended up being released nationwide on the same day the CIA concluded that there had been Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. It was a classic case of the real-world being an absolute buzzkill for a comedy movie. It is high time, then, that we revisit this Christmas comedy romp and reassess, because it’s actually pretty good.
This movie — that is part office comedy, part tech movie and part substance-induced carnage of the grandest kind — sees the CTO of Zenotek, Josh Parker (Jason Bateman), help his terribly inept branch manager and buddy Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) save the company from being shut down by Vanstone’s sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston). In an effort to sign with a big financial company helmed by one Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), they decide to throw a killer office Christmas party filled with snow machines, water slides and copious amounts of alcohol to somehow show Davis they support an inclusive culture because that is what he's looking for. Apparently, nothing says inclusivity like everyone at the office getting a chance to Xerox their butt cheeks.
Of course, with this being a comedy, all kinds of bad goes down, and it goes down fast. It’s fun, it’s silly, it doesn't take itself too seriously and it even features 22 Jump Street’s great villainess being just as villainy in a movie where a man-child has way too much money and no idea how to manage it.
It was actress and comedian Fortune Feimster’s first commercial movie, and she slayed playing a clueless and hilariously inappropriate Uber driver:
The film also stars other comedic favorites such as Sam Richardson, Randall Park, Rob Corrdy, Vanessa Bayer and the incredible Da'Vine Joy Randolph who is Zenotek’s head of security and who secretly wishes she would find herself in a Die Hard situation at work. We cannot emphasize enough how everyone is at the top of their game here — perhaps none more so than Kate McKinnon.
The above clip is where McKinnon’s character, Mary Winetoss, starts off. Winetoss (ha) is a do-it-by-the-book HR representative who’s constantly trying to keep the peace (and avoid lawsuits) in the Zenotek office, and she sometimes goes to cringing lengths to do so. Throughout the film, however, her character slowly starts to loosen up, to the point where she becomes both dark and daring in a subtle but clearly unhinged fashion. I won’t spoil everything here, but at one point, she reveals her Hyde side to her co-workers by admitting that she once filed a sexual harassment complaint against herself, for “pretended to drop something on the ground so that I could bend over and graze (copy room guy’s) butt with my nose.”
Just like any good comedy, the movie dabbles in subverting expectations at every corner. Aniston’s character Carol starts off as a jealous, daddy-issues sibling who seems to enjoy seeing her idiot brother fail, but halfway through the movie she, too, reveals a different side. Not only is the unlikeable Carol — who relishes taking revenge on a kid for eating her cinnabon by pretending to phone Santa and canceling said kid’s presents — extremely competent at most everything she does, but she can physically take on any dude without a single strand of hair falling out of place.
There's also an awkward blossoming of an office romance between Park and Bayer's characters that, by the time the party is in full-swing, turns wildly toward the unexpected. Listen, I’ll admit that the movie is far from perfect and that some jokes and beats are heavy-handed — there’s a Jimmy Butler cameo that basically amounts to nothing — but for the most part, it’s an amusing effort with some truly bonkers scenes. Sure, it could’ve pushed the envelope more than it chose to do, but let’s be real: If Office Christmas Party came out all hard-hitting, even fewer people would’ve enjoyed it back in December 2016.
It's the year 2022 and Zanandi is, regrettably, still on Twitter.