Kate McKinnon and T.J. Miller in Office Christmas Party (Photo: Paramount)

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Josh Gordon & Will Speck
STARS Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn

Kate McKinnon, who just this year won an Emmy Award for her role-playing on Saturday Night Live, was the breakout star of this summer’s Ghostbusters remake, but her subsequent roles are proving that filmmakers aren’t quite sure how to employ a talent as dynamic and idiosyncratic as hers. She’s certainly up to any challenges thrown her way, but her characters in both Masterminds and now Office Christmas Party don’t really allow her to strut her stuff — instead, both films lazily opt to partly define her character by her flatulence.

That McKinnon still manages to draw all eyes to her is a testament to her skills — that’s particularly true in Office Christmas Party, since she’s cast as the humorless human resources manager who learns to loosen up before the end credits roll. She’s not the main foil in the film, though: That would be Jennifer Aniston’s character, a CEO who tells her brother (T.J. Miller), the head of one of the company’s branches, that she may have to shut down his office as a cost-cutting measure. In an effort to save the branch, he and his chief employees (among them Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn) decide to throw an extravagant party in the hopes of luring a potential client (Courtney B. Vance).

Look, you pays your money, you knows what you’re going to get. Office Christmas Party isn’t good; it isn’t bad. It’s just … there. The actors are appealing, the gags occasionally inspire a smile — but not a single gut-busting laugh, which even the critically lambasted Bad Santa 2managed to produce every once in a while — and when you wake up the next morning, you won’t recall a single thing about it. In that respect, it’s like a real office Christmas party, but blessedly without the attendant hangover.

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