Surviving Christmas (2004) – Ben Affleck Xmas Holiday Movie Review

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By Geno McGahee

I picked up SURVIVING CHRISTMAS on a four pack of holiday movies last year and I wasn’t incredibly eager to watch it, but it was either this or another Hallmark holiday movie. So, I said what the hell and put the DVD in and it was actually a very pleasant surprise.

Drew Latham (Affleck) is a wealthy man but he is missing a lot. A rough childhood has led to an inability to connect with people and an inclination to buy the love of people as he tries to with his girlfriend, Missy (Jennifer Morrison). When his proposal to go to Fiji for Christmas is denied, Drew is lost and desperately wants to spend the holiday with somebody. After a brief meeting with his ex’s psychologist at the airport, Drew is given the advice to return to his childhood home to rid himself of his anger against the family that didn’t treat him right. That’s when things get interesting.

While being outside of his childhood home, he is noticed by the family that now resides there, the Valcos. Tom (James Gandolfini), the dad, Christine (Catherine O’Hara), the mom, and their teen son, Brian (Josh Zuckerman), are in turmoil and the tension is in the air. Tom is very tough to read and grumpy and when Drew gets too close to his house, he knocks him out with a shovel. They then drag him inside and learn of his intentions. Seeing the family unit, Drew comes up with an idea. He offers to pay 250 grand if the family adopts him for the holidays and act like a happy family during that time. They jump at it, but the family is very broken and the parents are about to split.

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Watching this, I realized two things. One, it’s a shame that James Gandolfini is no longer with us. He was an awesome actor and I never liked the Sopranos! Secondly, Catherine O’Hara was the mom in HOME ALONE and HOME ALONE 2. So, she’s got Christmas movie experience and this time she doesn’t have to deal with a bunch of fucking kids running around. She only has one that keeps to himself and jacks off in his bedroom all the time. They reference it often.

For the money, the family must act happy and full of the holiday spirit, which is where a lot of the humor of this film is. Tom being forced to wear a Santa hat and get a Christmas tree are really funny moments. Gandolfini does a great job as he fights Drew at every turn but does what he needs to do. When he wears the hat and his son compliments him, he wants to jump into the backseat and beat him, nearly causing an accident. It was very funny stuff.

The family lights the tree and Tom is forced to sing “Oh Christmas Tree” along with the rest of the family. As they sing, Tom and Christine’s daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), arrives and throws a wrench in the deal. Drew proposes that she plays the maid or some other character because he does not want to have a sister and Alicia makes it known that she does not want him around, money or not. Unfortunately for Alicia, Drew is there to stay and she now has to play along a bit.

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS, Christina Applegate, 2004, (c) DreamWorks

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS, Christina Applegate, 2004, (c) DreamWorks

Drew passes out scripts to the family and brings in a grandfather character, Doo-Dah (Bill Macy), from a local acting group. It was very funny when he walked in and the reactions of the entire family were hilarious. Tom objects to the addition until more money is thrown at him. Now Doo-Dah is along for the adventure.

As expected, Alicia and Drew start a romance. Drew also learns that Tom and Catherine are going to get a divorce. With all this going on, Drew makes it a point to step in and try to save the family. This feels a lot like the movie THE REF. I love THE REF…damn that Kevin Spacey for being such a creep. I have a hard time watching that now. Damn you Spacey!

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS is a really funny film with many similarities to THE REF. An unwanted guest is the right fix for a family in turmoil. Drew was just the right guy to come into the mix and show the family what they had and what they were about to give up. It’s got a happy ending and plenty of laughs throughout. I highly recommend this one.

Rating: 7.5/10