Surviving Christmas

"Good"

Surviving Christmas Review


Halloween hasn't arrived yet and we're already getting the first holiday film of the season. Despite opening to the tune of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," the timing of Surviving Christmas could not feel worse. We haven't even set our clocks back, and the trees haven't lost their leaves, but we're supposed to believe that Christmas is right around the corner? Fat chance, Santa -- this film won't even survive long enough to see turkey day. But, it's just that kind of attitude that makes this spiteful little movie work.

Ben Affleck plays the lonely but wealthy media marketing executive Drew Latham. He prefers to ditch his family this holiday and take his materialistic girlfriend Missy (Jennifer Morrison) on a first-class trip to Fiji. Missy emphatically rejects his offer and dumps him for wanting to take her away from her family at Christmas. At the advice of Missy's quack psychologist, Drew's therapy is to write down all of his grievances with his family and burn them in front of his childhood home. While this ridiculously manufactured scenario presents a good treatment option for Drew, to the rest of us, it reeks of rotten eggnog.

Drew doesn't just burn his grievances on the doorstep - he blazes his own trail inside the house for the holiday. Drew offers residents Tom and Christine Valco (James Gandolfini and Catherine O'Hara) a preposterous $250,000 to allow him to re-enact his childhood memories with Tom and Christine serving as his parents. Once the Valcos sign the contract, a smug Drew is permitted to make wholesale changes for this family's holiday: The Valcos' son Brian (Josh Zuckerman) is evicted from his room so Drew can sleep in his old bed; Drew hires a local actor to portray his grandpa and move in with the Valcos; and Drew relegates their daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate) to maid status because he didn't have a sister growing up. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

In Surviving, traditional happy family events like picking out a Christmas tree, or singing Christmas carols are drastically degraded into sardonic squabbles. At his lowest point, Drew draws up scripts for each family member to re-enact so that they do not deviate from the Leave It To Beaver-style Christmas Drew has fantasized about. Unfortunately for Drew, this holiday is closer to a run-in with the Sopranos than the Cleavers.

Even though all holiday cheer is bagged for crass jokes, nasty pranks, and indecent actions, Surviving works on a small level as a precursor to the entire pre-holiday hullabaloo. Director Mike Mitchell's (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo) film is not meant to evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling. It's a satirical look at the ludicrous lengths many Americans will go to ensure (or buy, in Drew's case) a perfect holiday. Christmas is months away, but now is the time for frantic shoppers to be pushing through crowds at the mall with frustration levels on high. Surviving would fail to hit its mark the closer we get to the holidays, and that is why we're getting it now. It shouldn't be around come Christmas to spoil our eventual good cheer.

The film is certainly not without its problems - the plot meanders nowhere and it's dominated by obnoxious, over-the-top performances. But the writing is crisp, and the insults are fun. It's certainly not the best way to spend the holiday - good thing it's only October.

Aim higher.



Surviving Christmas

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd October 2004

Box Office USA: $11.2M

Distributed by: Dreamworks

Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 7%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 104

IMDB: 5.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Drew Latham, as Tom Valco, as Alicia Valco, as Christine O'Hara, as Brian Valco, Bill Macy as Doo-Dah, as Missy Vanglider, as Heinrich, as Horace Vanglider, Stephanie Faracy as Letitia Vanglider, as Dr. Freeman, as Doo-Dah Understudy, Tangie Ambrose as Kathryn, John 'B.J.' Bryant as Cabbie, as Suit

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.