Review – Don’t Try The Egg Nog! (“Office Christmas Party”)

I can’t say that I’ve ever been to an office Christmas party before, like the one depicted in this mediocre and barely humorous movie, but if the dull storylines and tired clichés are any indication, I think I’ll skip it altogether and watch a movie instead… and one that really makes me laugh, like Scrooged!

We begin with Jason Bateman as Josh Parker, the recently divorced tech officer of Zenoteck, a cyber data company that’s deep in trouble. Why? Well, the laid-back boss, Clay VanStone (T. J. Miller), runs the company more like a best friend than a boss and his heartless
über-bitch sister (and the company CEO) Carol (Jennifer Aniston) is threatening to close the company unless it produces major $$$… in just two days.

Luckily, there’s brilliant techno-geek Tracey Hughes (yummy Olivia Munn) who’s about to crack a breakthrough in internet communication: wireless cellphone connection without Wi-Fi! BUT, they’ll desperately need the backing of big-shot Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) and his $14 million contract to save Zenotek first. What to do? How about invite him to their office party that Carol has forbade them to throw!? AND make it an Animal House-style party with loud music, gallons of liquor, naked people, debauchery galore, animals, lost children, drugs, and Walter getting a face-full of cocaine shot at him through a fake snow-thrower!

Yes, the office partiers are having a great time! There’s lecherous Jeremy (Rob Corddry), by-the-book and repressed HR gal Mary Winetoss (Kate McKinnon), accounting newbie Fred (Randall Park), and nerdy computer whiz Nate (Karan Soni), who’s made the serious mistake of hiring a pricey call-girl to pose as his girlfriend. Her crazy pimp, Trina (Jillian Bell), is the highlight of the movie. The party kicks into high gear and, naturally, Carol returns at the zenith of the festivities, ready to shut everything down and close the company right there and then.
Problems increase when coked-up Walter is injured and it’s revealed that Clay has been footing the bill from his own bank account, leaving him almost broke. The third act decides that a nice kidnapping would fit in, so Trina grabs Clay after over-hearing that he’s got a huge stash of cash hidden somewhere. Now the chase is on with Josh, Tracey, Mary and a not-so-happy Carol searching for Clay while the party back at the office goes into full-disaster mode. Is there a happy ending where the company is miraculously saved at the last moment and feuding brother & sister reconcile? Of course! It’s Christmas!
With three writers (Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer) and two directors (Will Speck and Josh Gordon), this movie had potential to be another raucous ensemble laugh-fest like Bad Teacher or Harold & Kumar Save Christmas, but sadly it sank into the dismal mire of the trite and boring. The writers didn’t help much, with Malen, who wrote only ONE TV episode, Solon who’d only written BBC radio shows and a scant few TV shows and Mazer, who wrote those dreadfully unfunny Borat films! Oh, and the directors? This is their first motion picture ever!
With all that less-than-professional background going into this project, you can see it in the finished film. Only a few jokes hit home, the sight gags are lame and old-hat, all the characters are one-dimensional, and the writing is sloppy and contrived, leaving many of the actors to ad-lib alternate lines (as seen in the closing credits), just to fine the funny. Even Bateman and Miller, noted for their comedic timing, struggle with the material and just look lost. The only shining light in this mess is Jillian Bell as the psychotic pimp; at least she made me LOL when no one else did.

Die Hard (1988)

It’s Christmas time, you’re at an office party, and all hell’s about to break loose because THIS party just had Professor Snape bust in with some terrorist friends to ruin your night. Whaddaya gonna do? Luckily John McClane is there to save the day and impress the boss… if he wasn’t already dead.

In one of the very best action/Christmas-time movies ever made, Bruce Willis, hot off his Moonlighting TV gig, made this his signature role with this profanity-laced, explosion-filled, blood-soaked yarn about a vacationing NYC cop who’s visiting his estranged wife at her office party in L.A. It’s Christmas Eve and Hans Gruber (played with delicious relish by the late, great Alan Rickman) is the leader of the bad guys, bent on stealing $640 million in bearer bonds from Nakatomi executive Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta). Naturally, his plans go sideways when McClane (Willis) the cop decides to be the fly in Gruber’s ointment.

McClane’s long-suffering wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) tries to play it cool and pretend that McClane isn’t her ex-husband, but too late! McClane is on the job, making sure that while Hans’ boys are busy trying to crack the downstairs safe to get to the bonds, he’s messing up their plans by killing off Gruber’s men one-by-one… and blowing things up in the process. This arouses the local LAPD, (Reginald VelJohnson as Sgt. Powell) and the over-the-top looney antics of the FBI. This also brings out the woodwork an over-zealous TV reporter (William Atherton) and a uncaring police chief (Paul Gleason) to make things worse.

There’s more explosions (thanks to McClane), more killing (thanks to Hans), and non-stop action that leads up to the thrilling conclusion and showdown between Hans and McClane. Checkout Rickman’s face as he falls from the bldg. That wasn’t acting; they didn’t tell him when they were going to drop him to get his honest reaction! Many actors turned down the roll of McClane before Willis: Stallone, Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Schwarzenegger, and even Frank Sinatra!

With a brilliant script by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. DeSouza and gloriously directed by John McTiernan, this blockbuster movie made a gazillion dollars at the box office and spawned four sequels, of which only three were any good. And McClane’s, “Yippe-ki-yay, mother-f–cker”, is now part of the American catch-phrase lexicon.

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