Unless you’re #blessed and employed by a pretty sweet company, work social functions almost always suck, with the annual 5 PM Yuletide jamboree being the apex of “do we really gotta go?” bullshit business bashes. You and your significant other are clockwatching like a motherfucker, hoping that the two other peons you usually grab beers with after your shift each Wednesday also chose to attend. The food is usually lukewarm catered garbage. You get two drink tickets at the door (for domestic swill at the bar). Your boss forces conversation while constantly saying you “crushed it” this quarter. The Work Wife (or Husband) wants to bitch about the loser they actually traded vows with six years ago. Copious HR violations transpire in the lockable copy room. All in all, it’s a goddamn nightmare best deleted from your corporate Outlook calendar.
For the hapless bees who buzz at the Chi-Town branch of minor server conglomerate Zenotech, the yearly Christmastime gathering is no different. Nevertheless, local manager Clay (T.J. Miller) wants to bring back the tradition of tossing all caution (not to mention modern day decorum) to the wind and throw down like his founder father used to before he died. Problem is, his CEO sister Carol (Jennifer Aniston) is in town and talking about shuttering the division if they don’t hit a ludicrous goal of 12% growth in the next four days (the office currently sits at their usual 6%). Thankfully, a rep (Courtney B. Vance) from their biggest potential client is taking Chicago meetings, and Clay is determined to get this stuffy, old school, scotch-swilling attaché artist to fall in love with Zenotech’s culture. They’re gonna land this whale, and throwing the monster party of the season is the only way into the mark’s heart. Truthfully, the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but a relatable goal is put in place. Jobs need to be saved, and if it takes an ice luge that shoots alcoholic egg nog out of an elf’s dick, so be it.
As you can probably guess, Zenotech employs a full roster of Mike Judgian knuckleheads, many of whom are played by very funny people doing riffs on characters they’re already known for. Jason Bateman’s Josh might as well be named “Michael Bluth”, because that’s who he is – the straight-laced everyman who is constantly trying to hold it all together while simultaneously being ridiculed by his crush (Olivia Munn) for always “playing it too safe”. Munn’s Tracey is essentially The Newsroom’s Sloan Sabbith – a Sorkin-esque “smartest girl in the biz” type whose innovations may be the company’s ultimate redeemer. Miller is playing the corner office equivalent of his Silicon Valley startup bro moron, only here he’s a good-natured idiot who doesn’t mind blowing the rest of his trust fund in order to ensure his people have a good time and receive year-end bonuses. Aniston is again another Horrible Boss. Rob Corddry’s Jeremy is a play on his trademark loudmouth pervert, mixed with a jab at Millennial “shame artist” baloney that sees him posturing in the name of any cause that could get him laid. Randall Park (Kim Jong-un in The Interview) is at first seemingly harmless before his “mommy fetish” leads another character to label him a “walking Amber Alert”. While this commitment to shtick may at first seem like lazy casting, these folks are all really great in these roles, and seeing them share scenes is a treat.
Thankfully, directing duo Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory, The Switch) toss in enough fresh faces doing creative caricatures that their familiar foils are given new personalities to play off of. Kate McKinnon kills it as Mary, the “farty cheese lady” Human Resources worry-wart who body shames women into covering up their breasts while sporting a Non-Denominational Holiday Sweater that’s as tacky as it is inclusive. McKinnon’s already established herself as one of our most stimulating comedic talents, being the only enjoyable part of both SNL’s current cast and this year’s regrettable Ghostbusters reboot. Here she’s operating on a different plane of weird, all throaty modulation and stroke victim facial tics. Jillian Bell (The Night Before) almost beats her out for MVP, playing a pimp with a penchant for packing pistols and shopping at Whole Foods. Her best earner (Abbey Lee Kershaw from The Neon Demon) has been hired by an IT dork (Karan Soni) to pose as his girlfriend, but doesn’t mind giving out a few handies in the men’s room for $40. Bell balances a knack for slinging profanity with a soccer mom’s innocuous charm. She’s the one who’ll kidnap your kid should he start ahead of her own shining star. Last but certainly not least is Fortune Feimster as a raging Uber driver, screaming at passing cars with a twinkle in her eye. She’s Melissa McCarthy, trading in caustic sarcasm for giggly glee.
The party itself is an anti-realist slice of insanity, and certainly ends up being as smuttily extravagant as you may expect (complete with parrot semen). Drugs are ingested, romances are kindled, reindeer drink from toilets, and Clay puts it all on the line so that nobody at Zenotech has to file for unemployment come December 26th. While Gordon & Speck’s picture isn’t as visually sharp as many of the Seth Rogen’s recent comedic forays (DoP Jeff Cutter ain’t no Brandon Trost), the movie floats on pure charisma. The climax is built around a Fast and Furious joke that will age the movie quicker than a new vehicle the moment it’s driven off the lot, but we care for these clowns because, for all their exaggerated oddball tendencies, they genuinely seem to give a shit about each other. That’s more than this author can say for 95% of the offices he’s ever worked in, and instantly makes this party a metric fuckton more appealing than any held in real life. So while you may not have high hopes based on the rather generic premise and trailers, you should still stop by and peruse the bizarre batch of treats these unusual drones have brought in an attempt to make you chuckle.