Office Christmas Party review: Jennifer Aniston is the bitch who stole Christmas

Aniston is sublime, but the rest of the film is as much fun as a family row at Christmas

Warmth and steely ruthlessness: Jennifer Aniston in Office Christmas Party

Film Title: Office Christmas Party

Director: Josh Gordon...

Starring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, TJ Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 105 min

Wed, Dec 7, 2016, 18:39

   

Hiring the right cast and putting them in the right roles should bring you some way to comedy gold. And, never forget, Christmas comedy gold pays double. Josh Gordon and Will Speck, directors Blades of Glory, achieve that limited success in this exhausting yuletide mess.

TJ Miller is playing the same good-time CEO he plays in Silicon Valley. Jason Bateman is the warm, sensible centre of the project. Kate McKinnon does that flat-voiced thing that people other than me find amusing. And Jennifer Aniston is transcendently brilliant as the bitch who stole Christmas.

For about 15 minutes, this will do well enough. Miller and Bateman, boss and chief technical officer of a Chicago computing firm, are facing up to a tolerable enough Christmas when Aniston, TJ’s sister and professional superior, bursts in the door and begins sacking everybody in possession of a head.

Almost every Christmas movie is a version of A Christmas Carol and Jen is the best alternative Scrooge we have seen in a decade. Few comic actors can manage warmth and steely ruthlessness in equal measure. Do better things with her, Hollywood!

Anyway, Aniston offers the Chicago branch one last chance: if they can secure a particular valued client, then everyone can stay in work. Miller and Bateman decide to win the target over at the . . .Well, it’s all in the title. Is it not?

Once the preamble is over, chaos sets in and the film loses all its initial charm. The smell of desperation rises as the crew struggle to fill the yawning screen time. Miller falls off anything high enough to risk dislocation. A minor character is pushed into a pointless subplot involving a sex worker. Connie Booth is forced to sing I Cain’t Say No . . . Oh that’s not right. I’m thinking of the Gourmet Night episode of Fawlty Towers. But the feeling is very much the same.

All of which is a way of saying the film is a big waste of much top-flight talent. God bless them, every one.