Surviving Christmas


Reviewed by: David Stanners

After the critical success of Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck must have thought he could award himself an early Christmas prezzie by stringing a second romantic comedy hit together to uproot his supposed Hollywood leading man status out of the doldrums. Not so.

He plays Drew Latham, a corporate fat cat with a plush apartment, a trophy girlfriend (Jennifer Morrison) and a soulless lifestyle that begins to haunt him around the Christmas holidays. Left to his own devices, following a bust up with the girlfriend, he's feeling cold and lonely and starts calling up distant associates, pretending to be their best buddy, in the hope they'll invite him to spend Christmas with them. No such luck.

During a final act of desperation, he's told by a stranger to relive his youth and so decides to go back to the house he grew up in and impose himself on whoever lives there. Finding a family of four, headed by the don himself (James Gandolfini), his wife Christine (Catherine O'Hara) and children Alicia (Christina Applegate) and Brian (Josh Zuckermann), he persuades them, with the help of $250,000, to relive his youth, right down to calling them mum and dad, and bringing in community actor Doo-Dah (Bill Macy) to play his uncle.

The comedy value is plausible for the first half hour, but after that the life gets sucked out of it and the gags fall flat. As soon as Alicia makes an appearance, you can almost guess the outcome, this being a romantic comedy, and just know that Drew's somehow going to come to terms with his selfishness and enlighten his life with the spirit of Christmas. There are a few decent jokes, involving sledges, Internet porn and salacious photo shoots, but nothing that'll have you rolling in the aisles with splitting sides.

The strangest thing about Surviving Christmas is that Christmas seems to last a month. Every day Drew wakes up to an increasingly tormented family, and you're thinking, when is Christmas coming and when will it end? Naturally, there's a Hollywood feelgood tinge to it all, but you can't help but wish that Santa had delivered a bit more festive fun along the way.

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2004
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A highflying corporate executive finds himself lonely and confused at Christmas, so decides to relive his youth with a completely random suburban family.
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Josh Morrall ***

Director: Mike Mitchell

Writer: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont

Starring: Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O'Hara, Josh Zuckerman, Bill Macy, Jennifer Morrison, Udo Kier, David Selby, Stephanie Faracy

Year: 2004

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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