out of Five
Running time: 106
A colossal turkey, just in time for Christmas – this is a badly written, desperately unfunny “comedy” with a jaw-droppingly bad performance from Ben Affleck. And that’s saying something.
Ben Affleck has made his fair share of bad movies in the last few years, but it’s safe to say that Surviving Christmas is his worst film yet. That’s right, it’s even worse than the execrable Gigli. It’s so bad that they couldn’t even find any good bits for the trailer. As such, it’s easily the worst film of 2004 and stands a good chance of being one of the worst films of the decade.
Disgustingly Rich Exec Hires Surrogate Family
Ben Affleck plays Drew Latham, a disgustingly rich high-powered executive of some kind whose girlfriend breaks up with him just before Christmas because he’s never introduced her to his family. In fact, it turns out that Drew’s parents are both dead; if only he’d just told her that in the first place, we could have been spared the ensuing horrors of the rest of the film, but no, stupid Drew decides to wallow in self-pity for a bit.
He goes to his childhood home and promptly bribes the family he finds there (including James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara) to let him spend Christmas with them and treat him as part of their family. Needing the money, they accept, but when their daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate) arrives home for the holidays she’s less than pleased with her new “brother”.
Keen-eyed film fans will have noticed that this is the exact same plot as the David Spade vehicle Dickie Roberts. Frankly, it says something when David Spade can get laughs out of material this bad and Ben Affleck can’t.
Teeth-Grindingly Awful In Every Way
Surviving Christmas is so teeth-grindingly bad that it’s hard to know where to begin. Firstly, there isn’t a single funny joke in the entire film, unless you think Gandolfini hitting Affleck in the head with a shovel is funny. (Well, okay, on paper it is, but the scene is badly directed and isn’t played for laughs). Secondly, there are entire scenes that have no point at all. Thirdly, Affleck’s character is an obnoxious, unlikeable, selfish idiot and yet we’re meant to root for him. Finally, none of the supposedly “emotional” moments ring true and the film feels hollow and fake as a result.
Affleck is dreadful in the lead. There are a few actors who should never attempt to play “manic” and Affleck is definitely one of them. His desperate mugging becomes physically painful to watch – it’s like being at a party that everyone knows is a disaster and Affleck is rushing around trying to convince everyone they’re having fun. At one point he bellows “Ah hate mah own guts!” and you’ll be hard pressed not to agree with him.
As for the other actors, you can tell that they all wish they were somewhere else and you end up feeling very sorry for them, particularly Gandolfini and Applegate, who both deserve better than this. (O’Hara, at least, has her work with Christopher Guest to fall back on).
In short, Surviving Christmas is a film that deserves to be taken round the back and shot, like the turkey it is. Don’t let it ruin your Christmas – avoid like the proverbial plague.