Office Christmas parties, much like New Year's Eve, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and any other kind of scheduled fun, often fail to live up to the hype.
You may think it's going to be all jolly Secret Santas and good employer tidings, but the next minute you've drunkenly smashed your colleague's finest china, stashed the remains in the fire and sworn to take it to your grave unless the opportunity arises to talk about it in a Herald on Sunday movie review years later. With all those pressures in mind, ensemble comedy Office Christmas Party hopes to pull off the unthinkable: to not be a total let-down.
In a similar vein to recent comedy giants The Hangover, Superbad, and Sisters, Office Christmas Party narrows its scope to a one-night-only affair.
Set in snowy downtown Chicago, a data specialist branch looks to be axed on Christmas Eve by tyrannical CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston). With the profits plummeting under the management of her idiot brother, Clay (T.J. Miller), the senior employees are sent scrambling to save their jobs.
The only feasible solution - because this is movie land and not the real world - is to throw a huge banging office party to lure in potential investors and save Christmas.
The banal setting, as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant mastered in The Office, is bursting with recognisable characters ripe for dissecting. There's the overzealous HR in an inclusive denomination Christmas jumper, the awkward new IT guy with disturbing depths, the clearly in-love colleagues and the hapless man-baby boss.
Leading man Jason Bateman plays chief technical adviser Josh Parker, a glum divorcee with puppy dog eyes for Tracy (Olivia Munn), the anarchic coder across the cubicles.
Although the big names on the poster, the leading pair have the film completely stolen from them by TJ Miller (Silicon Valley) who plays the buffoon boss, and Kate McKinnon ( Ghostbusters) as the farting HR busybody.
Where something like The Office skewers the minutiae of everyday mundanity, Office Christmas Party knee-slides over the details, does a Jagerbomb and moons the audience whilst cackling maniacally. Expect a lot more binge drinking, effluence and nudity than you might get at your average wine and cheese afternoon. It's a wafer-thin premise with wafer-thin stakes, just trying to claw through time to get to the glowstick-touting, shutter-shades wearing party montage. That's not to say there aren't good moments, TJ Miller delivers meandering observations like no other, from "it's so hard to shop for the bald" to "shoot for the moon and you'll land on the sun."
Office Christmas Party would no doubt be a rollicking night out, if you and some coworkers want to chug a few vodka cruisers at the bowling alley and hit up the nearest cinema. But if you brave it sober, many of the jokes fall flat, the party scenes become grating and the characters become borderline insufferable.
There are large impressive stunts, pratfalls and chaos, but seldom does Office Christmas Party ever actually shock or delight in the way that it thinks it does. The cast boasts some of the greatest working comedy actors, not to mention some novelty cameos. But it's not quite enough to save Christmas this time.