Surviving Christmas (2004)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Shouldn’t be bashed.

I wrote a review not too long ago for Catwoman. If you didn’t know already, Catwoman was a supremely hated film based off of the Batman villain of the same name. For years I really liked that movie, and for years I didn’t understand their main disappointment in it. I eventually figured it out, but in no way shape or form will I say it’s a terrible movie. It’s got bad attributes, but that doesn’t alter the entire film. The same can be said for Surviving Christmas, which is a film often regarded as the worst Christmas film of all time. Again, I’m struck with the same confusion. Surviving Christmas is another Christmas film that I actually watch every year as tradition. I really enjoy it, but now that I review films…I do see the faults…but once again I have to say – it totally doesn’t deserve to be as hated as it was. No one has clearly seen terrible until they’ve seen some of the stinkers I have.

Alright, so eccentric millionaire Drew Latham was just dumped by his girlfriend a week before Christmas, and he is left with no one to spend the holidays with. His girlfriend’s therapist tells him to write down his grievances and burn them in a place that reminds him of his childhood and forgive himself. He agrees, but ends up really reminded of his childhood. He goes to his childhood home, a place now inhabited by a completely different family, and he pays them $250,000 to be his family for Christmas. This family isn’t ordinary though, they have monumental issues all on their own. So this Christmas is going to be a hassle to survive, especially when you consider one lie is always magnified to the extreme.

I’ll admit the movie’s not perfect. It certainly has its own issues that it never worked out before release, but I will never say I hate it. The problem the film faces is sending mixed signals. I’ve seen and heard more people than not claim this movie’s moral of the story is that money solves everything and buys happiness, which is so clearly not the point. It starts off that way, sure, but if you’re actually watching the film and not looking for the bad, you’ll realize that money had very little effect on anything. This family was screwed up to begin with, and his money, if anything, was making things worse. It definitely wasn’t making anyone happy. The only thing that made anyone happy in the film was Drew’s attitude.

Yes, his attitude is a bit jerk-like, but he means well and underneath that dumb rich exterior is a little boy that never got to experience Christmas the way he needed to, and so he over-compensates with big gestures. In a way, the Christmas spirit in the film really relied on Ben Affleck to deliver, and in my opinion, he delivered. He was really funny a lot of the time…maybe slightly annoying in others, but I found myself laughing throughout. The screwed up family all have their needs as well, even though they weren’t focused on as much, they are as clear as day if you’re looking for them. They needed this stranger more than they could admit. They just wanted the money because people in general need money and the idea of $250,000 is too good for a poor family to ignore. Doesn’t make you happy, but it helps with bills.

All in all, this is a pretty good addition to Christmas films that actually have Christmas spirit. You can disagree all you want, but I’ve seen plenty of movies that you wouldn’t even consider renting at a movie store, that you would subconsciously glance for less than a half second. This movie looks like Inception in comparison, I mean come on! It is really harsh to say this is the worst Christmas movie ever when you haven’t seen them all. OOOOH Snap.

The Good:
Ben Affleck is not as bad as people say he is here. He’s weird and goofy, but he has Christmas spirit and his character cares more about people than he is given credit for. The premise is also an interesting one, because who doesn’t like screwed up families?

The Bad:
Affleck can be annoying here; there can easily be mixed signals in terms of moral of the story, some people might think it’s saying money solves everything; overall, every single person in the film looks depressed making the movie feel oddly more depressing than it should.

Memorable Quote:

Tom Valco: I think your mom’s starting to like your grandfather hitting on her.

Drew Latham: There’s a sentence you don’t often hear on Christmas Eve.



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