Surviving Christmas


Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

A ridiculous and perverse premise has somehow made its way onto cinema screens. Just like Christmas With The Kranks and The Polar Express, Surviving Christmas winds towards a festive moral that aims to fill the audience with yuletide cheer. The execution of said moral in this particular seasonal release is highly questionable, but unmistakably funny.

The critics have slammed the film remorselessly. Nobody seems to have liked this twisted retelling of A Christmas Carol and I believe I have found the answer: nobody likes Ben Affleck.

He plays a rich ad executive who pays a dysfunctional family to take him in and make Christmas just how it was when he was a child. This seriously strange idea could, in the right hands, have been a gross out smash hit in the Farrely brothers' style. Instead, Mike Mitchell decides to take the whole thing a little too seriously and what results is a comedy that is uncomfortable with itself. The actors are left unsure whether to play it straight, or cock-eyed. This can be blamed on the script, or lack thereof. Filming took place without a finished draft, and thus, parts of it are improvised and the unfunny material remains in the final cut.

Nevertheless, there are many positive attributes. James Gandolfini is very entertaining as the constantly resentful Tom Valco, who's only vice, in true Christmas spirit, is money.

Many may dislike Affleck's style in comedic roles, but his specific brand of humour is allowed to thrive in this unnatural plot. The character of the son (Josh Zuckerman) is underdeveloped, as is the family's relationship with its neighbours, but again the unfinished script can be held accountable.

Surviving Christmas is by no means a great film, but it is certainly not as bad as it has been made out to be. Unfortunately, most won't get a chance to decide for themselves until it is released on DVD, as it was severely under marketed in the UK.

This offbeat comedy is a genuine step forward in the Scrooge-U-Like repro market. When given the chance to shine in its own right, it works quite well.

Reviewed on: 02 Jan 2005
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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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David Stanners **1/2

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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