This image released by Paramount Pictures shows T.J. Miller as Clay Vanstone, left, and  Jason Bateman as Josh Parker in a scene from "Office Christmas Party." (Glen Wilson/Paramount Pictures via AP)

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows T.J. Miller as Clay Vanstone, left, and Jason Bateman as Josh Parker in a scene from "Office Christmas Party." (Glen Wilson/Paramount Pictures via AP)

Reeling it in: ‘Office Christmas Party’ a train wreck, but here’s some better options

“Office Christmas Party”

Paramount Pictures

1 hour, 45 minutes

 

The movie I watched this week was terrible, and it should have come as no surprise. When I look back on it in a few months, I’ll think, “Why did I ever imagine that would be any good?”

I’ll tell you why: Jason Bateman. Jason Bateman has been fooling me into going to see bad movies for a while now. He was so funny in “Arrested Development,” and is generally such a genial and comforting presence on-screen that he tricks you into paying for a trashy raunch-comedy that has little to no value.

I have no problem saying I love Jason Bateman as an actor. But how many movies have I actually seen him in that I liked? Let’s just look at his filmography. For every “Juno” or “Zootopia” there’s a dozen stupid sex farces, such as “The Change-Up,” “Horrible Bosses,” or “Identity Thief.” The same paragraph could be written replacing Bateman’s name with Jennifer Aniston, also in this train-wreck, and also a comforting lovable figure we all remember from a favorite TV show.

These actors, who are just fine, even in this bad film, trick the general public, yours truly included, into thinking that this obviously poorly written, hastily conceived, slapped together piece of trash will be worth going to. It’s not. I’m not even going to bother with the plot, because, who cares? The writers certainly don’t. If “Office Christmas Party” even cared enough to push the envelope and be truly offensive, that would at least be something, but it doesn’t. It’s bland, dumb, and ultimately forgettable.

Grade: D

What this movie does, however, is give me license to talk about some actually good Christmas movies you could watch this year. We all know about the classic classics, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” and I think we’re all pretty versed in the new modern classics like “Elf,” “A Christmas Story” (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”) and “Christmas Vacation” (“Eddie, I couldn’t be more surprised if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet.”) I’d like to recommend two of my favorites, however, that you may have forgotten about.

 

“Scrooged”

It may seem like heresy, but Bill Murray’s classic take on Dickens is my favorite “Christmas Carol” adaptation. Set in the ultra-corporate 1980s, Murray plays Frank Cross, a ruthless television producer who just happens to be visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. The movie is hilarious and Murray is at his best, one of his last truly comedic roles, before he switched to playing more respectable and somehow melancholy parts.

The supporting cast is excellent, despite being an odd grouping. “Raiders of the Lost Ark’s” Karen Allen joins Bobcat Goldthwaite, Buster Poindexter, and Robert Mitchum, of all people. I love the way the plot twists in on itself. Unlike a traditional telling, this film’s Scrooge, Cross is well-aware of the Dickens’ classic. In fact, he’s airing a live-television “Christmas Carol” event on Christmas Eve. But his shallow nature and oblivious attitude keep him from seeing the real-world parallels in his overworked assistant, a young Alfre Woodard in the Bob Cratchit role, and her young son, suffering from an unnamed illness.

If you’re worried that Frank Cross will end up wearing the chains he forged in life, however, there are three ghosts, including a hilarious turn by Carol Kane, who will set him straight. “Scrooged” is the perfect movie for those out there who are tired of the traditional Christmas fare, and who want to avoid dreck like “Office Christmas Party,” or “Bad Santa 2.”

Grade: A

 

“Love, Actually”

If zany’s not exactly your bag, on the other hand, 2003’s “Love, Actually” sits near the top of my list of all-time films, Christmas or otherwise. This British ensemble manages to juggle so many story lines, with so many characters, many of them big-name stars, and it does it beautifully and elegantly.

Starring Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kiera Knightly, Martin Freeman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, among others, “Love, Actually” is a powerhouse on every level. Sweet, funny, moving, and downright emotional, this movie succeeds on every level. The film is series of interconnected vignettes, with my perhaps my favorite being the interplay between aging rocker Billy Mack (Nighy) and his schlubby manager Joe as they try to navigate Billy’s bizarre resurgence with a truly terrible remake of the classic “Love is all Around” entitled “Christmas is all Around.”

“Christ-mas is all around us, so c’mon let it snooooww!” It’s so great. It’s helping me take my mind off this week’s waste of time.

Grade: A+

“Office Christmas Party” is rated R for nudity, language, drug use and violence, but you’re not going to go see it, so why worry about it?

“Scrooged” is rated PG-13 for language.

“Love, Actually” is rated R for nudity and language, but it’s profanity in that British way that doesn’t seem quite so bad.

 

Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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