Surviving Christmas

Surviving Christmas

survivingchristmas2

Today’s flick is a 2004 Christmas comedy: Surviving Christmas.

Two teams of writers worked on the screenplay for Surviving Christmas: Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Made of Honor, A Very Brady Sequel, Josie And The Pussycats, Can’t Hardly Wait, The Flintstones In Viva Rock Vegas) and Jennifer Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin (The Tooth Fairy, Yogi Bear, That ’70s Show, Rio).

Surviving Christmas was directed by Mike Mitchell, whose other credits include Sky High, Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo, Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and Shrek Forever After.

Surviving Christmas had two credited cinematographers: Peter Lyons Collister (Arrested Development, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Garfield 2, Halloween 4) and Tom Priestley Jr. (Bordello of Blood, Undercover Brother, Barbershop, Barbershop 2).

The editor for the movie was Craig McKay, who has cut such films as Everything Is Illuminated, K-PAX, Philadelphia, Mad Dog & Glory, Reds, and Cop Land.

The team of producers on Surviving Christmas included Erin Stam (Underdog, 27 Dresses), Betty Thomas (I Spy, Charlie’s Angels), Jenno Topping (Doctor Dolittle, The Brady Bunch Movie) and Patricia Whitcher (The Terminal, Dreamgirls, The Soloist).

The makeup effects for the film were provided by Tammy Ashmore (Zombieland, Taxi), Marsha Shearrill (Semi-Pro, Auto Focus), Suzi Ostos (High Fidelity, Wanted), John E. Jackson (State of Play, Daredevil, Congo), Kimberly Greene (Scream 4, Kingpin), and Tony Gardner (Wild Wild West, Cocoon, Darkman).

The special effects work for Surviving Christmas was done by a team that included Jeff Frink (Dead Heat, Maximum Overdrive, Trick or Treat), William Dambra (Child’s Play, Gladiator), Dominik Duganzdic (The Aviator, Volcano), Ray Svedin (Mannequin, Cobra), Bruce A. Strong (Home Alone 3, Sinister 2), Tom Ryba (Wild Wild West, Groundhog Day), Rodman Kiser (8 Mile, A Simple Plan), and John Rigden (Road to Perdition).

The visual effects crew for Surviving Christmas included Will Cunningham (2012, Ghost Rider), Kent Demaine (Deep Blue Sea, The Core), Karin Levinson (Cop Out, Hellboy), Will Robbins (Minority Report, The Cell), Paul Luna (The Core, The Master of Disguise), and Mark Russell (The Wolf of Wall Street, American Ultra).

The musical score for the movie was composed by Randy Edelman, who also provided music for movies like Balls of Fury, Underdog, xXx, Black Knight, Anaconda, Corky Romano, Osmosis Jones, The Mask, My Cousin Vinny, and Ghostbusters II.

The cast of Surviving Christmas includes Ben Affleck (Daredevil, Argo, The Town, Gigli, Reindeer Games, Jersey Girl, Good Will Hunting), Christina Applegate (Anchorman, Married With Children), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos, The Man Who Wasn’t There, 8MM, In The Loop), Catherine O’Hara (After Hours, Beetlejuice, Home Alone), Bill Macy (The Jerk, Analyze This), Jennifer Morrison (House M.D.), and Udo Kier (Blade, Shadow of the Vampire).

survivingchristmas1The plot of Surviving Christmas is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A lonely, obnoxious young millionaire pays a family to spend Christmas with him.

Bizarrely, Surviving Christmas was released in the United States in late October, before Halloween, which might have contributed somewhat to its financial failure. Speaking of which, Surviving Christmas was made on a production budget of $45 million, on which it only grossed roughly $15 million in its lifetime worldwide theatrical run.

As well as being a box office bomb, Surviving Christmas was reviled by audiences and critics alike. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.3, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 7% from critics and 28% from audiences. On top of that, the movie would up with three Golden Raspberry nominations, including one for Worst Picture.

Surviving Christmas is a fundamentally twisted movie. The entire plot revolves around Ben Affleck’s character essentially holding a family hostage for the holidays, in exchange for $150,000. The writing for his character borders on being utterly terrifying and inhuman, like he could snap into becoming Patrick Bateman at any moment. I’m sure he was supposed to come off as quirky when they were sketching out the character, but the way he comes off isn’t like that at all. It seems like the expectation is that the audience will feel bad for his loneliness, but the lengths he goes to are far beyond what anyone would actually do.

If there is anything positive to say about Surviving Christmas, it is that Ben Affleck is genuinely creepy in his performance, even if that wasn’t what he was actually going for. The rest of the cast is pretty run of the mill, and aren’t given a whole lot to do aside from react to Affleck’s ongoing holiday breakdown.

As is the case with most comedies gone wrong, there aren’t any particular redeeming values to this movie. Because the humor doesn’t work, there’s just no gas or power to it in general, making it a really dull experience to try and sit through. I honestly can’t think of any good reasons to recommend it, outside of the novelty of seeing Ben Affleck play a poorly concealed serial killer for the holidays.

For more thoughts on Surviving Christmas, I recommend checking out Paul Clinton’s review for CNN and Stephen Holden’s coverage for The New York Times.

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