Surviving Christmas has a ludicrous plot. Drew (Ben Affleck) is a lonely rich guy who has no place to go on Christmas. His girlfriend wants a commitment, doesnt want to fly to Fiji for the holidays, and tells him Christmas is a time for family. Their rapid-fire exchange at the beginning of the film sets the tone of the movie. Their exchange also begs the question, if family is so important at Christmas, and if the girlfriends ready to make the leap into marriage, why doesnt she simply invite him over to her house for the holidays? That doesnt happen so Drew's left going through his phone book and calling people he barely knows to try and finagle his way into their holiday celebrations. His phone calls lead nowhere (which is in keeping with this movie) so he packs up and takes off for his childhood home.
Arriving at his old homestead, which is now occupied by the Valco family, he acts crazy and gets bonked over the head by the family's snow shovel-wielding father (James Gandolfini). Coming to inside the house without even a scratch - or a headache Drew offers the Valcos $250,000 to act like his family and do all the holly jolly Christmas stuff he says he remembers doing when he was just a kid. $250,000? Think about it. A quarter of a million dollars to stay a few days, sing carols, dress in red and green, trim a Christmas tree, and other such holiday happenings. Why does he offer them such a huge amount? $250,000 is just way too bizarre an amount to even be believable in a goofy Christmas movie. This guy cant find one person to spend Christmas with yet he has $250,000 in expendable cash just burning a hole in his pocket. Okay
Anyway, so lets say you get over the fact this extremely rich guy is buying a family for Christmas. And lets just say you dont even care the son addicted to computer porn subplots just silly. This movie does all that one better by introducing a daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), who returns home unexpectedly and is sucked into Drews warped holiday fantasy. Alicias arrival leads to the whole she hates him/she loves him game. Reintroduce the girlfriend who discovers she really needs Drew in her life after she receives a Cartier bracelet and youve got jolly good holiday fun. Or not.
Some scenes do work. I particularly liked a scene at the dinner table where the family read from scripts to appease Drew. Because Drew didnt have a sister, Alicia was referred to in the script as the maid. That was cute. Of course, if you followed that same plot line, it didnt hold much water. Drew didnt have a brother yet he never made the Valcos son play the part of butler or chauffeur. The scenes that dont work fail so horribly it destroys any goodwill created by the scenes that made you laugh. Dont even get me started about Drew and Alicias shared cold, which came on over the course of one toboggan ride and seemed to vanish just as quickly.
Conjure up an image of a good Christmas comedy movie. Got it? Did Ben Afflecks mug play a prominent role in your mental picture? Probably not as Afflecks not known for doing comedy. With Surviving Christmas, its apparent why Affleck and comedy (at least of the intentional variety) arent normally said in the same sentence.
"Surviving Christmas" was directed by Mike Mitchell and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and a brief drug reference.