Surviving Christmas stars Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate, James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone). It is rated PG-13.
Drew (Ben Affleck) says the wrong thing to his girlfriend Missy just before Christmas and she breaks up with him. Desperate to not be spending Christmas alone, Drew goes to his childhood home, and pays the family now living there $250,000 to let him stay with them for the holidays. Tom (James Gandolfini) sees the dollar signs, and his wife Christine (Catherine O’Hara) reluctantly agrees to the plan, even though their teenage son is not happy to be giving up his room to this stranger. Drew even hires an actor to play his grandfather, whom he affectionately nicknames Doo-Dah, to complete the family.
That’s where the fun begins. Actually, from the first few opening scenes, we know this is not going to be a typical Christmas movie. Seeing Grandma take gingerbread men out of the oven with frowns painted on all their little faces is one clue, and what she does afterwards is shocking if it hadn’t been for those depressed little cookies. This film is about the unfortunate people who greet depression instead of Christmas cheer in December each year.
Drew sets about recreating his family, and doing all the traditional family Christmas rituals, and then their older daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate) shows up. She is not happy about having this crazy man spend the holidays with her family. Ben Affleck is really quite superb in this role, and is totally cut out to do comedy. He really shines in this film, and the other actors are great in their unique roles as well. The situations that arise are very funny.
The film takes place in Chicago and the suburbs. For anyone who’s ever been to northern Illinois, you know there are no mountains there; not even close. Despite this fact, Drew takes Alicia tobogganing down a mountain complete with a forest that could only be in the Pacific Northwest. Other than that, I really liked the film and laughed out loud. I liked that it was in Chicago, as the holidays are a magical time in the Windy City, decorations on every street and storefront, and the hope of snow in the air.
This film is also a little romance. Tom and Christine work at rekindling their love for each other, and Drew and Alicia grow more and more attracted to each other as the hours pass. If you want to see a romantic comedy that is also about families and Christmas, this is the film for you.