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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is one great moment in *Surviving Christmas* that almost makes it
worth the pain: James Gandolfini cracks a shovel over Ben Affleck's
This movie serves as yet another unfortunate example of James Gandolfini proving what a great actor he is whilst simultaneously besmirching his career by acting in this film.
Young and wealthy ad exec, Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) has been inculcated into believing that one must never be alone on Christmas. (And there, from the outset, is the underlying problem with our suspension of disbelief in this idiotic movie: how many people of Drew's social standing, in 2004, truly care one way or another whether Christmas is spent alone or with half the family or with a fifty-dollar prostitute?) Storyline finds Drew buying off a family to spend Christmas with, on the condition that they pretend to be his own, insensately ignoring all the indications to the contrary that his money has not bought the emotions he was seeking.
For $250,000, a surly suburban truck driver, Tom Valco (James Gandolfini), and his disheveled wife, Christine (Catherine O'Hara), agree to be Drew's ad hoc family, against protests from their son, Brian (a very one-dimensional Josh Zuckerman) and daughter, Alicia (a very soft-focused Christina Applegate). Drew then spends the rest of the movie supposedly recapturing his youth or - something. The messages in this movie are as twisted and illogical as its dry-mouthed storyline. Fraught with overt psychoses, Drew plasters a fake smile on his face and blindly remains in denial against every denigration that he was supposedly buying the Valco family to avoid.
Which begs the question: If Drew is paying these people to recapture some semblance of joyous familial emotion, how psychotic must he be to pretend happiness amongst their barbs and mental anguish over his presence? It is not a case of the Valco family hiding their true feelings and pretending to be happy while around Drew - three of the four members make it patently clear they despise him. Is he so incognizant that he cannot see that his money is not buying him the "family" atmosphere he was inculcated into believing was a truth in the first place? As with all movies this opprobrious, one wonders how *four* screenwriters could possibly get so tangled in their own narcissistic dreams of appearing in a credits sequence that they will overlook any semblance of plausibility, or intelligence.
Director Mike Mitchell, who was responsible for *Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo* - stop right there. 'Nuff said.
Gandolfini and O'Hara somehow manage to shine, proving their mettle amongst this mess. Christina Applegate is willowy and cutesy and blond and fiery in all the right places, scathingly cutting Drew into little strips of carcass for most of the movie, then doing an about-face and falling in love with him because the script tells her to.
And I wouldn't go so far as to say that Affleck is a bad actor, but John Schneider better look over his shoulder. There's a whole new level of Desperately Seeking Talent in town.
Ultimately this movie will never topple other Christmas classics as
It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story or even
Scrooged but I think it is one of the funniest, most entertaining
Christmas movies out there. What is known about this movie is that it
had no script when production began, it was shelved for a year and that
it was one of quickest theatre to DVD turnovers ever. What seems to be
mostly unknown is that it is, in addition to all of that, really very
funny. Affleck has a certain charm. Many critics and audiences dislike
him for a reason I can't really understand. I feel his choices
undermine his talent. Forces of Nature is not good, plain and simple.
There are many questionable choices on his resume and this may be why
most dismiss his abilities. I will say that Glory Daze, Chasing Amy,
Good Will Hunting and Changing Lanes show he has got some talent, not a
lot, but some. What Surviving Christmas provides us with is an
obviously over the top, "hammy" performance. There is nothing in this
performance that says that he is trying for nuance, what he is doing is
being goofy. The plot is a guy going back to his childhood home to
relive Christmas he never had. This would, and should bring out the kid
in anyone. I am a goofball when it comes to Christmas. Affleck is
hamming it up the whole time with big toothy grins and throwaway one
liners that make me laugh EVERY TIME I see this movie. I watched it
twice today in fact. It is one of mine and my coworkers favorite
holiday movies. The trailers were weak, the plot is laughable and the
ending gets a bit overwrought thus making it difficult to get anyone to
see it but it's been my experience that once someone DOES see this
movie they like it. I work at a video store and I play it often and
every time I play it, while it is on the screens, someone asks if they
can rent it as they had been watching it, caught a funny bit and wanted
to see more. They are shocked to find it is a Christmas movie, with Ben
Affleck and it is funny.
Those who watch it will not be disappointed.
I will start this review by saying this: Don't read the other comments ! Sure this film isn't Christmas Vacation or Home Alone, no it's not in this category ! But if you compared to Four Christmases, Christmas with the Kranks or Fred Clause, this is about the same quality level, you have to watch this movie with your brain at off, it's entertaining and the actors do their role very well, in fact, the acting is pretty strong and the jokes are almost (all) funny ! So forget what you read if you haven't seen, it's a good Christmas movie. I understand why actors like to do this movie, they never forget that they were childs one day and it's truly fun to watch them in this kind of movie. And Christmas is very soon, i watch this movie every year since i buy it in 2005 and i don't regret my choice !
When this movie first came out I wanted to see but never did. It left the theaters in a flash, which wasn't surprising considering this was right during the whole Bennifer fiasco. Ben was way too over exposed at the time, and Gigli certainly didn't help matters...I don't think it mattered what Ben Afleck did during that time, the critics would have hated it and the movie goers wouldn't give it a chance...knowing all that I was still determined to give it a chance but never really came across it. It came to DVD in the middle of the summer when I had no interest in a Christmas movie...but finally just saw it on TV and here's what I thought... It was funny! The movie's definitely not perfect...and I would agree that Afleck seems kinda off his stick for a good chunk of the movie...in the interest of suspension of disbelief though I'll hearken' that too an exaggerated eccentric millionaire and the fact that he's hit on the head with a shovel near the beginning of the movie. Put aside the likelihood of all this stuff and remember this is a comedy that's not meant to be taken too seriously. All the actors do their part well...and I was glad to see Catherine O'Hara in a big role, I've been a fan since SCTV but she hasn't had many chances to do her thing. O'Hara and Gandolfini make some funny moments just with their expressions, while Affleck makes a fool of himself at almost every turn...which is totally intentional. Christina Appelgate is actually the voice of reason during the whole thing...a far cry from some of her other comedy roles, but she still holds her own as the sharp love interest. The movie has a certain dark, cynical feeling to which I've always liked, dark comedies always seem a little more real...and maybe that's why I took to it. My rating now is only six...but if it's on again next Christmas I'll probably watch it and I'll probably like a little more...than the year after that who knows. It's a shame that an actor's bad press can sink any chance his movie's have for success...there's no Oscar material here but a holiday movie without big family feasts or magic reindeer should have done pretty well in theaters. It's no National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation...but if you like that kinda humor you'll at least find a few chuckles here...and I guarantee it'll grow on you.
The cast of Surviving Christmas is a sort of hodge-podge of actors/actresses. I could not have imagined ever casting them together, but it works well in the movie. It is better than the average feel-good Christmas movie, but not destined to be a classic. The comedy is well dispursed throughout, and the movie moved along at a good pace. I have seen plenty of holiday movies, but never imagined one with Ben Affleck. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I have seen an Affleck movie. (I have shunned them on purpose in the past - Well, OK, I did like Dazed and Confused). The movie, however, is entertaining, and only a few jokes fall flat. 7 out of 10 on the holiday scale.
What's not to like about this movie? Every year you know that you're
going to get one or two yule tide movies during Christmas time and most
of them are going to be terrible. This movie is definitely a fresh new
idea that was pulled off pretty well. A very funny take on a rich young
guy paying a family to simulate a real Christmas for him. What is the
good of having money like that if you can't do fun things with it. It
was a win-win situation. A regular family gets six figures and a rich
guy gets to experience Christmas like he imagined. Only if.
Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) was incredibly difficult to deal with and it was just a riot to see the family reluctantly comply with his absurd demands. It was a fun and funny movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For an Affleck movie. When you here the name Ben Affleck you think Gigli which was one of the worst movie that exists but he has done great comedy in example dogma and that is what we see here, his comedy genes. The story is not so complicated: a rich snob who rents a family for Christmas for 250000 dollars to have someone to be with during Christmas, throw in some crazy scenes,characters and Ben who hurts himself in more than one way you got this film du it's really not so bad. I can actually admit that i laughed quite a bit and tough it was a good Christmas movie which can become one of these movies you see a couple of days before Christmas like: Home alone, Elf, Christmas vacation. So i say give it a shot it may surprise you. Sure surprised me big time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I get the feeling that those involved in making "Surviving Christmas"
didn't put much thought into the movie. The characters are so
inconsistent and the plot makes so little sense that the movie played
like a rough draft of a script thrown together with little but the
one-liner concept of a rich guy paying a family to let him spend
Christmas with them.
Ben Affleck portrays Drew Latham, the typical Hollywood image of a wealthy, egotistical advertising executive who buys his way through life. His girlfriend, Missy, leaves him shortly before Christmas because she's disgusted that Drew wanted to take her to Fiji for Christmas, which she calls "the family holiday," and the fact that Drew has never introduced her to his family. We later find out that Drew's father left when he was 4 years old, and his mother is dead, so it's a mystery why he doesn't just say that he has no family, rather than allow his girlfriend to believe that he doesn't care about his family.
Out of fear of being alone on Christmas, Drew tracks down Missy's shrink (why? I have no idea), who suggests he do a forgiveness ritual at his childhood home. When he meets the family living in his childhood home, the Valcos, Drew offers them $250,000 to pretend to be his family, so he can relive his fond childhood memories. He gets angry when he later finds out that they have an adult daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), because he "doesn't have a sister," and even goes so far as to write a script for the family to follow so that they act more like his "real" family. None of this makes any sense once Drew reveals that he grew up with no family but his mother.
Also inexplicable is the character of Alicia, who is annoyed that her family accepted Drew's money, and refuses to play along with his fantasy. But for no good reason, she suddenly starts to like Drew, and in a matter of minutes goes from hating his guts to acting like his girlfriend. Drew is such a complete jerk throughout the movie that even his sad story about the lonely Christmases of his childhood evokes no sympathy; I almost wish he had finished with, "Just kidding! The real reason I don't see my family is that they all have restraining orders against me!" (2/10)
Come on people. This movie is better than 4. I can see this
happening...wealthy people have done crazier things than this. And it
I watch a comedy to be entertained, escape from the pressures of the world for a short while, and not to have to take anything too seriously. This movie fully suits that purpose. I judge a movie on its own merits and am not about to compare Surviving Christmas to Blazing Saddles. I watched totally dysfunctional people grow into caring, likable individuals who could easily live down the street from my home. It will remain on my list of "favorite.....must watch for the holiday season". If you just want to have a fun 90 minutes, watch this one.
Surviving Christmas was really a different movie for both Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini. Affleck normally takes part in comedies that have a non family plot, while Gandolfini is usually seen on HBO's The Sopranos. This movie really is worth watching once, because it really seems like Ben Affleck tries so hard to be funny during this entire movie. Affleck is really an excellent actor at times, but this really just seemed like he was trying to take this low budget movie and turn it into an Oscar worthy performance. I found some of it to be mildly entertaining and funny, but in the long run it has all been done before in these low budget Christmas movies. So it is a worthy one time watch for those of you Christmas comedy fans.
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