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Yuletide’s a bitch, ain’t it?

Movie

Surviving Christmas
(2004)

 

On this evidence, it’s abundantly clear why Ben Affleck’s career was consigned to the toilet for a couple of years (and a couple more to make a proper comeback). He gets grief for 2003’s Gigli, and the whole Bennifer thing. But this!

His performance is horrific (and I say that without having a particular beef against him, acting-wise), playing relentlessly upbeat ad exec Drew Latham, who pays a family (the patriarch of which is James Gandolfini) $250k (and rising) to make pretend they’re his family until midnight Christmas Day.

It’s an utterly brain damaged premise, and its stupidity is only exaggerated by the absence of likeable characters, not least the protagonist. I could almost see this having potential if someone like Jim Carrey took the Drew role, a ball of insane energy that might bounce off Jimmy Soprano amusingly. But Affleck’s consistently punchable throughout; even once he’s suddenly flipped into a more normal romantic lead midway through (so, you know, he can end up with Christina Applegate). Somehow, he also brings a dissolute family together which results in a really special Christmas. It comes to something when the only laugh to be had is from an incest joke. Catherine O’Hara just about escapes with dignity intact but this film is testament to why DreamWorks has such problems remaining solvent.

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