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Surviving Christmas

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Surviving Christmas

Starring: Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini
Director: Mike Mitchell
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: October 2004
Genres: Christmas, Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Christina Applegate, Catherine O'Hara, Josh Zuckerman, Bill Macy, Danielle Panabaker, Bryan Fisher, Jonny Acker, Joan M. Blair, Judah Friedlander, Amy Halloran, Jesse Heiman

Review by Susan Granger
1 star out of 4

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 dismal.

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

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