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Film / Office Christmas Party

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Office Christmas Party is a 2016 American comedy film directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon (known for doing Blades of Glory). Written primarily by Justin Malen and Laura Solon (with help from four other contributors), it has an ensemble cast of comedians including Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jillian Bell, Vanessa Bayer, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Sam Richardson, Randall Park, Kate McKinnon, and Jennifer Aniston.

In terms of plot, it's exactly what the title says: a holiday movie centered around a big corporate shindig. A branch of an electronics-based company called Zenotek hosts an epic Christmas party, spearheaded by its wild manager (Miller) and his right-hand man (Bateman), in order to land a big client (Vance) and fend off the negative attention of its humorless, uptight CEO (Aniston). In a twist, the local manager and the CEO are actually brother and sister. And a guy dressed as Jesus rides a stallion.

It was the first live-action DreamWorks film released by Paramount since 2012's A Thousand Words, and only the third after the former switched primary distribution to Disney in 2011, and then Universal in 2016.

Office Christmas Party provides examples of the following tropes::

  • All for Nothing: After Clay went to all the trouble of throwing the Christmas party to win over Walter Davis and get a major deal, it is revealed that Davis was fired a couple of hours before the party, so he didn't have any authority to make such a deal.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: Zenotek is working on a project to transmit high-speed internet through power lines and the rest of the regular power grid, and it's portrayed as... something close to magic in the film (understandably enough, since it's a goofy comedy and not a documentary film about electronics). Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL) is genuinely a thing, but it faces a buttload of technical challenges to apply in practice, particularly since devices such as relays and transistors create a lot of signal noise. In Real Life, it arguably counts as Awesome, but Impractical. A review from Variety called this out, remarking how "Zenotek hatched the most significant advance in internet technology of the new millennium" even as "employees [were] making photocopies of their butts."
  • Bad Boss: Carol Vanstone embodies this to a huge degree, although she's as intelligent and capable as she is cruel and vindictive (unlike your standard Dilbert-esque executive/manager).
  • Benevolent Boss: Clay Vanstone is an awesome boss. As clueless and privileged as he is, he genuinely means well in every way. Josh Parker is a more realistic, down-to-earth version; he's a Nice Guy who tries his best to balance being productive with doing the right thing and having fun.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Carol is totally right that her brother is an eccentric goofball that isn't pushing his branch to anything like its real potential, and the man has nothing like the calmness and impulse control (let alone the business and/or scientific expertise) that a manager at his level ought to have. Clay is totally right that his sister is a callous scrooge that doesn't get how employees are human beings rather than just nondescript resources to be kicked around without a care, and the woman has nothing like the basic social-mindedness (let alone the positive vision about how to develop the company) that an executive at her level ought to have. This makes their quasi-reconciliation at the end all the more satisfying.
  • Butt-Monkey: This applies to Josh a lot. Jason Bateman being Jason Bateman, though, he's reasonable and sympathetic enough that he seems to rise above it. Josh is enough of a Nice Guy that he also has shades of The Woobie.
  • The Cameo: Chicago Bulls player Jimmy Butler appears as himself as a guest at the party.
  • Cheek Copy: Exaggerated to a hilarious degree.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Mention is made of the office containing one of the company's old first-generation servers. During the climax, it's used to get the internet back up and running.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Carol is seen reading The Girl on the Train. Jennifer Aniston's husband Justin Theroux had starred in the film adaptation.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: A bunch of different characters show bits and pieces of this. Jillian Bell's character Trina is more of a straight-up example of The Sociopath.
  • Daddy Issues: Clay was the apple of his father's eye, and his sister was... not. She hasn't taken it well.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Josh. One reviewer quipped that "[the movie's] heightened unreality only makes for more opportunity for Bateman to access his seemingly bottomless reservoir of put-out sardonic deadpan".
    • Carol very much counts as well.
      Clay: Done! And you're going to look so stupid!
      Carol: [going out the door] Then, we'll finally have something in common.
      [door shuts]
  • Driven to Suicide: The party wrecked office after office in celebration and people loved it. Mission accomplished. But Clay's having a kind of emotional breakdown since his staff has failed to get the deal that they'd been hoping for, meaning that a bunch of his people are about to get pink slips, and he's also suddenly gotten himself mixed up with dangerous criminals. It's a major Mood Whiplash from the lighthearted scenes earlier in the movie, and Clay decides to do a crazy car stunt that would probably take his life.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The film is about a party. It takes place on Christmas. Also, the partygoers work at the same office.
  • Girlfriend in Canada: Nate claims that he has a supermodel girlfriend and promises that she will be at the party when his subordinates correctly guess that he made her up. He ends up having to hire an escort to pass as his girlfriend.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Understandably enough for a holiday movie, even one that totally earns its R rating, its central conflicts are pretty much of the Both Sides Have a Point variety. The almost schmaltzy happy ending (the most unsympathetic character heads to jail while the heroes' electronics project succeeds) could arguably bring things up to White-and-Grey Morality.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: The best way to describe Trina (Jillian Bell), a pimp that comes into the scene mid-film, is "female Joe Pesci". The contrast is a major whiplash for a comic star known for things like this.
  • Hookers and Blow: Naturally comes into play when the party escalates.
  • Idiot Ball: Clay fluctuates between being a somewhat competent manager to a lovable ditz to a frustrating loon depending on the moment, let alone the scene. A bunch of other characters take turns with it as well. Arguably to be expected in a movie mostly operating on Rule of Funny.
  • Iron Lady: Carol, who puts everyone in the office on edge just be entering the building, and runs a very tight ship as CEO.
  • Ironic Name: Carol is vehemently anti-Christmas party, and appears to not care much for the holiday in general.
  • Jerkass: Co-director Gordon said about Aniston's character, "We created this character for Jennifer because she's absolutely fearless when it comes to playing somewhat unlikeable characters in comedies. For her, the more daring the role, the better." She graduates to Jerk with a Heart of Gold when her brother gets in serious trouble with Trina and her criminal associates. The siblings' relationship has shades of The Only One Allowed to Defeat You, although she seems to significantly mellow out when the film comes to a close.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Drew and Tim are always hacking into people's personal information to seduce girls under fake pretenses or find fodder for insults. After the party, someone accesses their browser history and writes embarrassing stuff from it (penile enlargement, cheap penile enlargement, etc.) on the wall near where they're passed out.
  • Laughably Evil: Trina is an ineffectually humorous villain. She's still enough of a tremendous asshole that her arrest at the end of the film is very satisfying.
  • Mama Bear: Allison's first scene has her angrily yelling at her ex-husband over the phone for letting their children (ages two and four) ride his new girlfriend's motorcycle.
  • Mood Whiplash: While having a layer of seriousness in that the group really does need to land that client, the generally goofy tone of the film's beginning and middle section contrasts a lot with Clay's thwarted attempt at a de facto suicide. Still, there's a pretty happy ending.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Clay is hedonistic in an eccentric way, but he sincerely means well, to the point that it's revealed near the end of the film that he's spent a lot of his personal fortune directly to benefit his employees and doesn't have that much left.
  • Nice Guy: Josh plays the Straight Man for much of the film's comedy, and as a co-protagonist he's really sympathetic all through the shenanigans.
  • No, Except Yes: In a meta-example, Rob Corddry was publicly asked if his real dick was exposed in the film, and he responded on Twitter: "My actual penis is a stunt penis, so yes and no."
  • Noodle Incident: Clay muses at one point that he's straight "except for that one time [in] Vegas".
  • Poor Communication Kills: Trina abducts Clay, but fortunately Clay's so drunk that she doesn't realise that he's keeping the money she's after on his person, and wastes time trying to make him take her to a personal safe.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Clay has lived his entire life up to this point by this ethos. Worse yet, it's inherited wealth. In another film, he could be the perfect snobbish douche antagonist,note  but here he's actually one of the protagonists, and a rather sympathetic one at that. Chalk most of it up to T.J. Miller's charisma.
  • Serious Business: Mary Winetoss has a lot of great lines in this vein.
    Mary: I've got doughnuts. I've got jelly. And sprinkles. But not 'cronuts', because they're a bastard pastry.

    Mary: It's a Kia. It's what God would drive.
  • Shout-Out: Clay is a huge fan of The Fast and the Furious series. This actually becomes a major plot point, with him coming close to committing de facto suicide by copying a stunt from the movies. As well, a replica of the famous Iron Throne is prominently featured when the party gets going.
  • Sibling Rivalry: A major theme of the film, between Clay and Carol.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Savannah, played by the 5'11'' Abbey Lee, is seen as very sexy by the men in the office.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: For a comedy, the film depicts the brutal aftermath of the titular party in depressing detail. Room after room is utterly trashed, and it'll likely take hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to get everything back to normal.
  • Team Dad: Josh. Crosses over into Benevolent Boss and Nice Guy, as stated above.