Monday, 18 February 2013


“All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy.” - Spike Milligan

At the weekend we raided the specials box at the local video store and got some bargain videos. Two of them were excellent films that we wanted to see for a long time, but we also bought a film that looked like a typical Hollywood romantic comedy/moral fable and the only reason we bought it was that three films were cheaper than two and nothing else in the box was even remotely interesting. We were in mood for mindless drivel at the weekend and we watched (rather unseasonably) this 2004 Mike Mitchell movie, “Surviving Christmas”, starring Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate and James Gandolfini.

As we suspected this was typical Hollywood grist for the mill, a rather unoriginal and mundane didactic B grade tale based on the premise “money can’t buy you happiness” (but it can sure cause you to be a gigantic pain in the behind for a lot of other people).  The story is heavy-handed and the acting is over the top, direction is slapdash and the improbability of the story makes for cringeworthy viewing. We suffered through it and swallowed the flavourless pap to the end to form a defensible opinion of the movie, if nothing else.

Drew Latham (Affleck) is a highly successful advertising executive leading an empty, shallow life devoted to his job and to making more and more money. All is going well for him until another lonely Christmas looms ahead. His lack of a family causes him to break up with his girlfriend and driven to desperation at the prospect of facing Christmas alone, Drew revisits his old childhood home with a view of rekindling some old memories. When he arrives, he finds that the house in which he was raised is no longer the home in which he grew up. It is inhabited by another family, of rather obnoxious character. Drew offers a substantial financial reward to the paterfamilias (Gandolfini) provided he allows Drew to pretend to be a member of the family over Christmas. Greed allows Drew to enter the family as a grown-up “son” but the family get more than they bargained for because Drew is overeager to celebrate Christmas in the way that he has always wanted. The family’s daughter (Applegate) provides he romantic interest.

This is a pedestrian movie designed to pull the heartstrings, but its fakeness, over-the-top schmaltz and weak attempts at humour make it quite tiresome. The sheer predictability of the plot and the average, to less than average, effort in making this film make it a C grade studio potboiler. The characters are inconsistent and the plot makes little sense, giving the impression that the movie was made from a rough draft of a slapdash scenario made on the premise of a rich guy paying a family to let him spend Christmas with them. Watch at your own peril, you have been warned…

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