Film Length: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)/Open Matte
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Retail Price: $29.95
The screenwriters didn’t spend much time trying to write out a story here so I’ll keep it short and direct. Millionaire Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) looks at Christmas as some sort of silly holiday with a fat man so when his girlfriend demands to meet his family he pretty much kicks her out, which leads to him having a breakdown. He gets the advice of a doctor who suggests he should visit his childhood home, which he does. While there Drew decides to wants to try this Christmas thing out so he rents the family who lives there. He offers James Gandolfini and Catharine O’Hara $250,000 to play his parents for the holidays
There have been hundreds of Christmas movies made over the past one hundred plus years and every once in a while we’re lucky enough to have one come along that makes you want to gather your family around the television set, sing songs with them and then afterwards tell all of them how much you love them. Surviving Christmas isn’t one of those films. This is the type of film that will make you want to look for the biggest tree in your neighborhood and hang yourself from it. This is not only the worst film I’ve seen this year but I’d also say it’s one of the worst films to every come out of Hollywood.
In such a wreck of a movie I really don’t know where to start but I guess I’ll be unoriginal and attack Ben Affleck since that’s the cool thing to do right now. For starters, I’ve always enjoyed Affleck as an actor. While he certainly doesn’t have too much range for me at least he’s always been enjoyable to watch but whatever happened here is beyond me. His performance here is without a doubt one of the worst I’ve seen from any actor and that includes my kindergarten play where I remember one kid falling asleep on stage. My only guess is that Affleck was wanting to break away from his normal performance and try something new but it really blew up in his face.
His performance is so over the top and obnoxious that there’s no way the viewer can connect with him and instead of feeling pity one can’t help but wish one of Santa’s reindeers would run over the guy so that the movie would come to an end. Not only is the performance very bad but it’s also an embarrassment and I really couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy because he’s reaching all over the place for laughs but doesn’t get a single one. The supporting cast doesn’t fair any better with the exception of James Gandolfini who looks the part correctly but sadly the screenplay doesn’t offer him anything to do. Christina Applegate should stick to playing dumb blondes and Catherine O’Hara also goes way over the top and doesn’t find anything.
At the five-minute mark of the movie the screenwriter credits pop up and it came as no surprise that four people were listed. That right there tells you something had to have gone wrong but this is obvious even before we see this. The opening credits push so hard for fake laughs that the viewer will have an uneasy feeling to their stomach due to their worry about what was going to happen next. The screenwriters must have thought showing a guy not being able to wrap a gift was funny. Other attempts at humor includes the mother posing on a porn site, which her loser son stumbles upon and more human in Affleck accidentally hiring a black man to play his grandfather.
Surviving Christmas is a horrid movie from start to finish and it’s really no shock that this is debuting on DVD less than two months from when it was released into theaters. Am I being too harsh on this film? I personally don’t think so because I love watching bad movies because they usually have something to laugh at but this one here is so bad that it’s not funny in a bad way. I’m not sure what went wrong with this film but my good deed of the year will to be to make sure no one else wastes 90-minutes of their life on this film. If I can keep others from suffering in this mess then I’m sure Santa will bring me some great gifts this year.
VIDEO---The movie is shown widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 TVs. I’m sure Dreamworks is highly embarrassed by this film but in their usual standard, if there are fans of this film out there then you’re going to be greeted with a very good transfer. The only real flaw is some very minor edge enhancement that can be seen in a few scenes but I doubt you’ll notice this unless you’re watching on a projector or a larger screen. The rest of the transfer is up to Dreamworks usual high standards. The flesh tones look very accurate and colors are full of vivid details. When judging colors I always pay close attention to the reds and greens and both of those look wonderful here. The detail is so good that you can easily make out everything in the scenes and can even tell a certain scene where CGI is used as snow. Black levels are also very good and constant throughout. An open matte version is also included on the disc.
AUDIO---The only option here is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which does the job just fine for a dialogue driven film. The entire track is front heavy but this is to be expected with this type of film. The dialogue is crystal clear and loud throughout with good separation and fine balance. The Surrounds are mainly used to show off the Christmas soundtrack and comes off quite well. A few sound effects are thrown in the Surrounds but there isn’t much action going on here. I don’t recall the rears ever coming into play. A French 5.1 track is also available.
EXTRAS---Up first is an alternate opening sequence but it’s never explained why this wasn’t used in the film. It’s really no better than what we’ve got in the actual movie so this certainly wouldn’t have saved the film. Up next is the HBO First Look, which gives us a behind the scenes look at the making of the film but unfortunately we don’t get to learn what went wrong here. We get interviews with the cast and director who are mean hearted enough to try and pass this film off as something great but if you look close enough it’s pretty easy to tell that none of them really have any hopes about the film. A storyboard gallery is also included, which contains quite a few different looks at the settings used in the film. No theatrical trailer is included, which is becoming a standard for Dreamworks for some reason.
OVERALL---I’m a sucker for almost any Christmas movie but this one here is an insult to anyone watching it so hopefully, for the sake of its actors, everyone will just let this turkey die so that no one else has to go through the torture. However, if any of the twenty people who saw this in the theater actually enjoyed it then Dreamworks delivers a fine disc.
Release Date: December 21st, 2004