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Office Christmas Party (2016)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/4/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/21/2017
I believe that we all have our own thoughts on specific attributes which can make or break a movie. A friend of mine has the notion that if a movie has too many stars or recognizable faces, then it is doomed to failure. Her theory is that the number of well-known actors will proportionately diminish the film's ability to be good. If you look at some of the disaster movies from the 1970s, her theory carries weight. You know, those movies which would actually have the actors' photos on the poster, drawing your attention away from the fact that there wasn't anything else going on. Henry Fonda! Robert Mitchum! So, this begs the question -- When does an ensemble piece tip the scales into an overblown wreck? That's something we will ponder as we look at Office Christmas Party.
It's the holiday season and things appear to be going well at Zenotek. Although Chief Technical Office Josh Parker is a bit saddened that his divorce has just become final, he's excited about a big presentation that he has planned and he gets positive feedback from his engineer, Tracey Hughes (Olivia Munn). Meanwhile, branch manager Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller), who is also the son of the company's late founder, is planning a huge Christmas party. All of the momentum comes to a halt, when Clay's sister, Carol (Jennifer Aniston), who is CEO of the company, swoops in to announce that she's not happy with the financials. She call for sweeping layoffs, threatens to shutter the branch, and most of all, bans any unnecessary spending, such as an office party. When Josh learns that his promising account, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) sees Zenotek as a cold entity, suddenly the office party is back on in an attempt to show Davis that the company is fun and tight-knit. What could go wrong at an impromptu party where the staff feels that their jobs may be in jeopardy?
When we think of Hollywood power duos who make comedies, the names which spring to mind are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who have made such hits as21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. But, there is another pair which isn't as well known, but have done some quality work. Josh Gordon and Will Speck's debut film, Blades of Glory, is a favorite in my house, and despite being sort of stupid, it's also incredibly funny. Their next film, The Switch, was sort of formulaic, but had its moments. So, unlike the incredibly prolific Lord & Miller, Gordon & Speck have only made three movies in 10 years (along with a handful of TV projects), and, unfortunately, they seem to get worse with age.
So, getting back to my friend's theory, along with the names mentioned above, Office Christmas Party features appearances by Kate McKinnon, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Karan Soni, and Jillian Bell. Some of those may not exactly be household names, but they are comedic actors who have proven their worth in other projects. Combined with the stars of the film, we get a cast of nearly a dozen main actors who should have been able to carry a funny movie. And some of them certainly seem to be trying...or at least doing what they are known for. Bateman is uptight and nervous, Munn is cool, Miller is wakcy, Corddry yells a lot, and McKinnon, well she's sort of a chameleon, here taking on the persona of the HR rep who plays by the rules. Perhaps the most interesting performance comes for Aniston, who continues to mine her post-Friends career by having no problem with playing a villain.
None of these actors, despite their talents, can overcome this movies banal script, which took six people to write. The story's problem is simple -- it tries too hard to do nothing at all. If you've ever been to a real office Christmas party, then you know that wackiness can often ensue from the most simple and mundane things. (I remember attending a party one year and being bemused by seeing a normally stoic doctor hitting the dance floor after a few drinks.) Office Christmas Party ignores anything simple and mundane and goes for the most cliched and over-the-top things that it can find. Prostitutes, involuntary cocaine induction, sumo snowmen, and car chases. Combine this with the incredibly hackneyed "we gotta save our jobs" storyline and we get a movie which is remarkably lacking in creativity. That would be forgivable if it were funny, but the genuine laughs are few and far between here, as the movie tries its best to be edgy and shocking instead of clever.
Gordon & Speck's past work had shown a nice mixture of craziness mixed with genuine heart. Blades of Glory delivered a truly weird (but genius) plot and peppered it with characters about which we actually cared. Office Christmas Party has this intention, but it misses the mark by a mile This is one of those movies where you hear the title and immediately smile, as you imagine the possibilities. Keep imagining.
Office Christmas Party is also far less risque than you would imagine on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very impressive, as we can make out the textures on objects and the depth is worth noting. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite being a comedy, we can some nice effects here. The music at the party features an abundance of bass which the subwoofer is more than happy to translate. The car chase delivers obvious stereo and subwoofer effects which move nicely from speaker-to-speaker.
The Office Christmas Party Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Directors Josh Gordon & Will Speck. "Throwing an Office Christmas Party" (12 minutes) is a sort-of off-beat making-of featurette as it contains on-set footage and comments from the cast & crew, but it also peppers in thoughts about real-life Christmas parties. The actors do discuss the atmosphere on the set. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 3 minutes. Obviously, these are all quite short, and don't introduce any new characters or subplots. Finally, we get a reel of thirteen OUTTAKES which run about 9 minutes. These are comprised of alternate takes from several scenes.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long