“No film studio ever went broke overestimating the American
public’s appetite for gross-out movies.”
A famous guy said the above, or something like it, a long time ago.
The original wacky-inebriates-v.-the-man movie, “Animal House,” was released almost 40 years ago, and several new imitations, often raunchier but just as spirited, hit the theaters every year. They generally earn out.
I don’t go often to movies like this one, which I always figured was because I’m not a young man and my interests were different.
But I was wrong. When I saw “Office Christmas Party,” it was in a theater full of middle-aged couples. The gross-out movie has gone mainstream. As the original audience has aged, filmmakers have been supplying new movies with mature actors in immature roles.
This story involves an underperforming branch of a tech company whose mean CEO (all CEOs are mean in gross-out land) plans to close the branch for not meeting its 12 percent year-on-year growth target.
The only solution for this, of course, is to throw a great big, wild Christmas party. If you’ve never seen this at any of the companies where you’ve worked, well, neither have I.
The jokes, stale but evergreen, wrote themselves. The office copier thing. The cocaine powder whoosh. The shy guy’s hired date who turns out to be a prostitute. An ice sculpture with a penile appendage that dispenses egg nog. Also, car crashes.
Every recognizable actor in the film is cast in a role he or she already has made famous. This typecasting is efficient because it spares valuable screen time that might have been wasted on character development.
So we have Jennifer Aniston again playing a mean boss, Olivia Munn as a beautiful, brilliant techie (a feminist requirement in film these days), T.J. Miller as yet another lovable goofball and Kate McKinnon playing an uptight human resources enforcer.
For novelty, the courtly Courtney Vance, usually cast as a serious attorney in a suit, is convinced to let his hair down and party, which isn’t as funny as it sounds.
I don’t think I will be giving away much if I say that the conclusion of the film ratifies the required theme that flaunting social norms and resisting authority are mileposts on the road to wisdom.