By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Two nights in a row I watched two R-rated holiday movies with similar themes and humor that don’t shy away from raunchy material.  Though they both have their over-the-top moments, one goes way too over-the-top too be enjoyable and funny, while the other one includes  smarter comedy and has a better assortment of characters and humor.  The latter film which I found somewhat enjoyable is Office Christmas Party.  With a talented ensemble cast and plenty of belly laughs, this is the holiday movie to watch if one prefers an edgier brand of comedy.

Jason Bateman stars as Josh Parker, a recently divorced CTO of the Chicago branch of Zenotek, a tech company that facing financial woes.  Josh, his boss Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), and their tech genius Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn) have been desperately trying to keep their office open by acquiring new accounts and working on bold and innovative technology.  As the Christmas holiday approaches, the team has nearly run out of options and Clay’s sister and Zenotek CEO Carol Vanstone has run out of patience with Clay and his struggling branch.  Carol gives them one day to land a juicy account or she will have to shut down their office.  In order to woo their potential client (Courtney B. Vance), the Zenotek team hosts a massive holiday party in hopes of impressing him and closing a deal.  However, a mix of alcohol, drugs and bad decisions threaten to destroy the whole deal and all hope of saving the business.

With a story by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore, Timothy Dowling and screenplay by Justin Marlen, Laura Solon, Dan Mazer, directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck offer a wild and crazy holiday movie that delivers laughs galore.  The story and plot may be somewhat formulaic, cliche and predictable, but most of the humor works tremendously well.  The film does have its over-the-top moments, but these never really detract from the overall experience. The material is R-rated, occasionally raunchy and the language does get rather strong, so it is definitely not for families with children or people whose sensibilities are easily offended or disgusted.

In addition to the well-written and directed humor, the wonderful assortment of comedic actors assembled for the movie makes an awesome difference and adds a variety of flavors.  Bateman offers some of his best straight-man work with the occasional sarcastic witticisms and reactions to the craziness around him.  T.J. Miller is great as the free-spirited, but caring boss who wants to save the business and give his staff the best holiday ever. Olivia Munn delivers a solid and credible turn as the driven and intelligent tech genius Tracey.  Jennifer Anniston succeeds in portraying a more unlikable and shrewd character as Carol Vanstone.   Other cast members include Vanessa Bayer, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan Soni, and more.

The two people that really stand out for their comedic work in the film, though, are Kate McKinnon and Courtney B. Vance.  I expected McKinnon would give an exceptional and hilarious performance, but the big surprise is Vance.  McKinnon portrays Mary, an uptight and strict human resources manager who always enforces the strict company policy.  Vance portrays Walter Davis, the representative of a major potential client whom the Zenotek team are desperately trying to impress. Davis is a jaded and depressed company man who obviously hates his job.  Both of these actors commit to their roles beautifully and deliver some of the heartier laughs in the film.

Though the movie is somewhat transparent and ends a little too perfectly, there is no denying the amount of fun and entertainment this movie has to offer.  For those tired of the usual, overly sentimental holiday fare on the Hallmark channel or even network television, this movie is an awesome departure from that drivel.  I wouldn’t pay exorbitant prices to see this film theatrically, but it would make for great time at the cinema on a weekend afternoon.




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