After winning a Best Screenplay Oscar for co-writing "Good Will Hunting"
with Matt Damon, one would think Ben Affleck would have script judgment. But he
doesn't. In fact, his films - and performances - just grow progressively more
Affleck plays cocky, egomaniacal Drew Latham, a millionaire Chicago
marketing exec who has been dumped by his girl-friend (Jennifer Morrison).
Unhappy about facing another Yuletide alone, he goes back to the suburban house
he grew up in, hoping to evoke some idyllic childhood memories. Since he reeks
with money, he rents the current occupants - the Valco family (papa James
Gandolfini, mother Catherine O'Hara, porn-obsessed teenager Josh Zuckerman) -
for $250,000 to serve as his surrogate family. Grudgingly, they accept but when
their grown daughter (Christina Applegate) comes home, she's understandably
appalled. Which is not surprising since the awkwardly staged, wintry holiday
hijinks fall as flat as Affleck's pratfalls.
Ineptly directed by Mike Mitchell ("Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo") from an
underdeveloped screenplay, filled with fumbling dialogue, that's been
patchworked together by four writers (Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Jeffrey
Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin), this dark comedy is quite dismal. Surely James
Gandolfini can find something better to do during "Sopranos" breaks than play
off Ben Affleck's constant mugging and smirking. Let's put it this way: if
you're heavily into festive satire, rent "Home for the Holidays" or "Pieces of
April" - both about Thanksgiving. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10,
"Surviving Christmas" is a shrill, crass 3. Yule be sorry! In fact, it would be
a miracle if this turkey outlasts the Halloween candy.
Copyright © 2004 Susan Granger