The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Surviving Christmas

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Judy Thorburn

Surviving Christmas

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"SURVIVING CHRISTMAS" NOT THIS STINKER!

Sitting through Surviving Christmas is like watching a bad grammar or high school production. But, at least students have the excuse of being “amateur”.  So I would like to know why any of the ‘veteran” Hollywood actors cast in this early Christmas flick would pick a horrendous vehicle like this one to add to their film resume.  It is not as if Ben Affleck needed one more film disaster to speed up his already downward spiral.  When was the last time he was in a hit?  Ben’s had one flop after another. This film was certainly not a good career move.  I know it is not nice to kick someone when they are down. But, he made the choice to star in this flick. Now, he has to face the consequences, as does everyone else involved.

Ben stars as Drew Latham, a rich advertising executive for Bar Code media who appears to have everything money can buy, except for a family.  He lives in an expensive, spacious, Chicago loft, and has a beautiful girlfriend, Missy (Jennifer Morrison) he wants to take to Figi for the Christmas holidays. But, she walks out on him after her request to meet his parents is turned down.  Finding himself alone, Drew decides to take a cab to the suburbs and visit the house where he grew up.  Even though another family now resides there, Drew comes up with an offer that the brood inhabiting his former abode can’t refuse. In exchange for $250,000, all he wants is to be taken in as part of the family and to share the holidays, in hopes of capturing some childhood memories.

The Valco family consists of Dad, Tom (James Gandolfini), Mom, Christine (Catherine O’Hara), their daughter Alicia (Christine Applegate) and son Brian (Josh Zuckerman). For some stupid reason, Drew even rents out an old actor to play his Grandpa Doo-dah (Bill Macy, “Maude”s husband from the old TV series).  Alicia shows up unexpectedly at her parent’s house thinking everyone is crazy, and she immediately butts heads with Drew.  However, is there any doubt that her presence screams out eventual “love interest” for Drew? That’s no surprise.  Meanwhile, brother Josh is preoccupied with staying in his room and watching porn on the Internet, a set up that later comes into play after his mother, as a special gift from Drew, has a makeover photo shoot.

You can pretty much expect that in order for this opportunistic family to claim the financial reward, it is not going to be an easy task putting up with whatever Drew has up his sleeve in order to make him feel at home. Of course, because this is billed as a wacky Christmas comedy (why release it so early - in October?) that means trying to create funny sequences, such as the ensuing shopping for Christmas presents, buying a tree, participating in snowball fights, and fake parent-sibling interactions at the dinner table are par for the course.  When recent girlfriend, Missy pops up with her parents (David Selby and Stephanie Faracy) without notice, it turns into a comedy of errors, or rather a series of outlandish overdone clichés. And when all is said and done, we are supposed to believe that Drew’s intrusion into a family of strangers, results in a positive effect on everyone’s life.

The problem is most of the jokes and comedic scenes fall flat.  Affleck, as the star comes across forced and uncomfortable when he isn’t acting like a fool.   I am sorry, but this has got to be his worst effort yet. I am still waiting for proof that he can act. As for the supporting cast, a heavily bearded Gandolfini plays his typical tough Italian guy, so that’s no stretch.  You can always depend on O’Hara to be a hoot, with her perfectly expressive, born for comedy, face. And Applegate is a trooper, making the best of a poorly written character. But, the presence alone of these good actors cannot save this dark comedy that is supposed to have some heart, below the ridiculous surface.  If there is a charming message to be learned about the true meaning of family, and what money can and cannot buy, it gets lost in the silly, moronic behavior of all the characters and stupid script.

I wish I had something positive to say about Surviving Christmas, because no one likes a good holiday movie more than me. But, Ben Affeck is no Jimmy Stewart, and this is not “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  I cringed at having to sit through another Affleck bomb.  How pitiful!   Surviving Christmas?  I doubt that once word of mouth gets out, the film will survive in theatres past Halloween.