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Surviving Christmas (2004) - film review

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Starring Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate & James Gandolfini

Christmas film review by Chris Olson

If you were to put Ben Affleck on the Naughty or Nice list, inevitably he would bridge both categories, in terms of his creative output in the film industry. With recent gleam still lingering from critical hits like Gone Baby Gone (2007), Argo (2012), and Gone Girl (2014), it seems audiences have succumbed to the season of forgiveness enough to allow the man to play Batman in next year's DC Comic's film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - an honour indeed.

From his misfire catalogue, Ben Affleck has so many films to choose from - Pearl Harbour (2001), Daredevil (2003), and most definitely the topic of this Christmas film review - Surviving Christmas - where he plays an eccentric, yet lonely, millionaire, who essentially whores out a suburban family to pretend to be his own in order to recreate the festive season of his childhood.

Head of the family Tom (James Gandolfini) is at first violently apprehensive about Affleck's yuppie appearance - even knocking him out with a snow shovel. However once Drew (Affleck) comes to his senses, so does Tom, after being offered $250,000 to go along with the Christmas charade...haha, get it?

As Drew runs amok recapturing his youth, his presence brings chaos to this family, where there already lies an element of distress. The tension is vamped up with the introduction of Alicia (Christina Applegate), the grown up firecracker who openly insults Drew’s feckless stupidity, regardless of his cash. However, this is a Christmas movie after all, and Alicia could end up a victim of mistletoe and Affleck's grinning charm.

More grating than if the cast of TOWIE turned up carolling at your house, Surviving Christmas puts its warning in its title - this is a film to be endured! From the outset, it is incoherent, mindless, and so busy stuffing itself with festive facets, it forgets to even tell a story. Affleck's character goes to huge lengths to pull off the perfect Christmas, even using a helicopter to go tobogganing - and yet he has no real affection for Christmas at the beginning of the film, hoping to elude it in Fiji with his girlfriend Missy (Jennifer Morrison). By the end, the plot becomes drunk on it's own eggnog and no one can understand Drew’s motives or actions!

Gandolfini is particularly out of place, giving a decent performance whilst being surrounded by incompetence. His surly muttering and humbug demeanour will probably reflect many of the viewers who fall victim to watching this movie.

On the Nice list, there are some warm and fuzzy scenes of tobogganing, Christmas pantomimes, and awkward family meetings which give off an aroma of festive fun. Oh and the mum (Catherine O’Hara) from Home Alone (1990) does a nude photo shoot which her erotically charged teenage son (Josh Zuckerman) ends up finding online whilst trying to masturbate...happy holidays everyone.

More Christmas film reviews tomorrow.


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