It can't be long until Kate McKinnon gets a starring role in her own film. She's been quietly working away in the biz for the past decade or so – starting in improvisational comedy in New York before moving into TV and film - and really burst onto the global scene in the past year with her portrayal of Hillary Clinton on long-running sketch show Saturday Night Live. And her Jillian Holtzmann was easily the best thing about this year's Ghostbusters reboot. So it will be no surprise to learn that McKinnon is far and away the best reason to go and see Office Christmas Party.
Not that Office Christmas Party is a bad movie – it's not. It's just all a bit ... well, safe, like so many "outrageous" Hollywood comedies these days. It's the story of a big tech company run with an iron fist by overbearing CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) who breezes into the Chicago branch run by her easygoing brother Clay (TJ Miller) and threatens to close it down and fire all the staff unless they can land a major contract before the end of the year. So Clay throws a blowout Christmas party in the hope of landing a multi-million-dollar deal with potential client Walter Davis (Courtney B Vance). Cue the usual shenanigans you'd expect to see at an office party, although amped up to frat-party level: sexual encounters, drunken debauchery, unintended drug use, a reindeer in the toilet ... the usual.
Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck – who helmed Will Ferrell's Blades of Glory in 2007 and The Switch (also starring Aniston and Jason Bateman) in 2010 – Office Christmas Party is an affable and amiable affair that doesn't really do anything we haven't seen before, but manages to get by on some decent laughs, loads of charm and a far bigger heart than we usually see in a film of this kind. Miller's Clay may be a bit of a man-boy who fell into a job working for the company started by his late father, but he genuinely cares for his staff and will do anything to save their jobs, even going as far as paying their annual bonuses out of his trust fund. Less well-served by the plot are Bateman and Olivia Munn, a pair of coworkers who clearly have eyes for each other but are let down by a script with a few too many subplots which doesn't quite give theirs the time it deserved, along with a lack of chemistry between them. Also underserved is Aniston, again playing a ball-buster of the type we saw in the Horrible Bosses films, without giving us the characetr-building moments that tell us why she is the sort of person she is.
Despite its flaws, Office Christmas Party is an enjoyable enough festive romp with some very funny moments, a great soundtrack, a big heart and a standout performance from McKinnon as an uptight, by-the-book HR manager who steals every scene she's in with her perfect comic timing. Keep an eye on her, for this lady is going to be a massive star.