Surviving Christmas

"Unbearable"

Surviving Christmas Review


Christina Applegate has an amazing gift for being neck deep in cinematic manure ("Anchorman," "A View from the Top," "Just Visiting") without actually getting any of it on her. A much better actress than she's given credit for, and a nuanced comedienne, in "Surviving Christmas" she's trapped in a grossly underwritten role as the sensible daughter of a suburban family paid $250,000 to take in a screwed-up millionaire for the holidays in his vain (in both senses) attempt to relive his childhood.

Without upstaging anyone, she creates brief, bright moments with her rib-tickling timing and her sincerity, despite being saddled with the movie's most insulting task -- falling in love with this shallow, selfish jerk who remains a shallow, selfish jerk right up to the closing credits.

Her ability to infuse this pathetically one-dimensional role of generic romantic interest with more authentic personality than anyone else on screen is the only reason this movie -- very possibly the worst Christmas movie ever made -- earns a rating of 1/2 a star.

The jerk -- whom we're supposed to grow to understand because of some cheap-cliché sob story about his lower-class upbringing in this same house -- is played by Ben Affleck, who has an equally amazing gift for picking the worst scripts ("Gigli," "Jersey Girl," "Daredevil," "Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon") and often giving the worst performances in the resulting movies, which is certainly the case here.

Bursting with ridiculous, high-pitched, arm-flappingly fake yuletide glee that he demands his family-for-hire emulate for his pleasure (per contractual obligation), Affleck's character is an insufferable egoist who learns nothing in 92 minutes but is still handed an off-the-shelf happy ending, complete with a girl he doesn't deserve. Affleck is a large part of the reason "Surviving Christmas" gets no more than 1/2 star.

Lifelessly directed by Mike Mitchell ("Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo") from a slapped-together script by a foursome of career Hollywood hacks (who can't even keep track of the film's timeline, which seems to take place over several work-free weeks instead of a few days off), this movie's idea of a punchline is Affleck bouncing enthusiastically on a step to the second floor squealing, "You know what we used to call that squeaky stair? The squeaky stair!" Its shorthand, everything-on-cue idea of story development is that intelligently dubious Applegate suddenly finds herself attracted to self-absorbed schmuck Affleck just because they both catch a cold while sledding together for no adequately explored reason.

Even the terrifically talented Catherine O'Hara and James Gandolfini can't wring an ounce of wit out of their one-note roles as the surrogate parents (she's neurotic, he's grumpy), whose rocky marriage is inexplicably and instantaneously saved by Affleck's interloping. ("I don't wanna leave," says Gandolfini. "Then don't," replies O'Hara, and suddenly they're holding hands and exchanging kisses.)

The ad campaign for "Surviving Christmas" has been making hay about the film's incongruous October opening date as a counter-programming marketing strategy, but I have another theory about that curious choice: Could it be that, in an uncommon fit of conscience and good taste, some studio executive decided to release it early so as not to ruin anyone's actual holidays?



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: 0.5 / 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

Also starring:

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.