Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike Mitchell|
|Produced by||Betty Thomas
|Screenplay by||Deborah Kaplan
|Story by||Deborah Kaplan
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Cinematography||Peter Lyons Collister
Tom Priestley Jr.
|Edited by||Craig McKay|
Tall Trees Productions
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
Originally slated for a December 2003 release, DreamWorks SKG pushed the release date back to October 2004, in order to avoid clashing with Affleck's 2003 film Paycheck. Surviving Christmas received negative reviews and was a box office failure. It was released on DVD on December 21, 2004, just two months after it had its theatrical release.
Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) is a wealthy advertising executive. Just before Christmas, he surprises his girlfriend Missy (Jennifer Morrison) with first class tickets to Fiji. She is horrified that he would want to spend Christmas away from his family. Citing the fact that Drew has never even introduced her to his family, she concludes that he will never get serious about their relationship and dumps him. Drew has his assistant send her a Cartier bracelet to apologize. Desperate not to spend Christmas alone, Drew calls all of his contacts to find a place to stay on Christmas, but he is not close enough to anyone to be invited.
He tracks down Missy's therapist, Dr. Freeman (Stephen Root), at the airport, hoping to squeeze in a therapy session. The hurried doctor tells him to list all of his grievances and then burn them at his childhood home. The house is now occupied by the Valcos, who wonder what Drew is doing on their front lawn. When he sets his grievances on fire, Tom Valco (James Gandolfini) sneaks up behind him and knocks him out with a shovel. After he comes to, Drew explains what he was doing and asks for a tour of the house. Thrilled to see his old room, Drew impetuously offers Tom $250,000 to let him spend Christmas with the Valcos. Tom accepts, and Drew's lawyer draws up a contract that requires the Valcos to pose as his family.
The next day, Drew forces the family to go out and buy a tree together, requiring Tom to wear a Santa cap in public. While they are trimming the tree, the eldest child Alicia (Christina Applegate) arrives for the holidays and is stunned by Drew's presence. He suggests that she could portray the maid, since she was an unexpected addition to the scenario. At dinner, Drew writes a script for the family to read at the table. He hires a local actor to play the part of his grandfather, whom he calls Doo-dah (Bill Macy).
Drew takes Alicia and her brother Brian (Josh Zuckerman) sledding the next day. After crashing at the bottom of a hill, he moves into kiss Alicia, who sneezes instead. Recovering back home from their growing colds, Alicia shares a childhood memory with Drew about an old tree that was coated in ice during a storm. Tom asks Drew to leave because he was planning on divorcing his wife Christine (Catherine O'Hara). Instead, Drew encourages the couple to indulge themselves. Tom buys a Chevelle SS, which he had when he was in high school, and Christine goes to a photographer for some glamor shots.
One evening, Drew takes Alicia to the old tree of her childhood, which he has had covered in ice again. She is touched by the gesture, but Drew overdoes it, bringing in a full pageant production to surround the tree. Disgusted by his lack of restraint, Alicia demands that he leave. Meanwhile, Missy was won over by the bracelet, and when Drew's assistant informed her that he was spending Christmas with his family, Missy visits the Valcos' house with her parents. Drew promises the Valcos an extra $75,000 if they will play along for the evening, and they agree to pretend to be his family.
The visit between the two families steadily descends into chaos, culminating with everyone seeing Christine's glamor shots manipulated into pornography on Brian's computer. Missy's parents storm out, and Drew informs her that their relationship is over. Alicia finally draws out of Drew the truth about his family. His father left them when he was just four, and every Christmas, his mother would work a double shift at the diner to make extra money. He would spend Christmas Day alone and visit his mom at the end of the night, and she would give him an adult stack of pancakes. He repeated the ritual every year until he was 18, and he has never been in a diner since. His mother died when he was in college.
Drew returns to his apartment to spend Christmas alone. Tom visits him to collect his money, and the two decide to go watch the actor who played Doo-Dah perform in the local production of A Christmas Carol. At the play, Tom and Christine decide not to divorce. Drew and Alicia make up outside the theater, and the film closes with everyone eating in the diner where Drew's mother worked.
- Ben Affleck – Drew Latham
- James Gandolfini – Tom Valco
- Christina Applegate – Alicia Valco
- Catherine O'Hara – Christine Valco
- Josh Zuckerman – Brian Valco
- Bill Macy – Doo-Dah/Saul
- Jennifer Morrison – Missy Vangilder
- Udo Kier – Heinrich
- David Selby – Horace Vangilder
- Stephanie Faracy – Letitia Vangilder
- Stephen Root – Dr. Freeman
- Sy Richardson – Doo-Dah Understudy
- Tangie Ambrose – Kathryn
- John 'B.J.' Bryant – Cabbie
- Peter Jason – Suit
- Ray Buffer – Arnie
- Phill Lewis – Levine the Lawyer
Rotten Tomatoes ranked the film 91st in the 100 worst reviewed films of the 2000s, with a rating of 7%. It was also nominated for three Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Ben Affleck; also for Jersey Girl) and Worst Screenplay.
Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Lisa Schwarzbaum panned, "Really, critics and audiences ought to turn thoughts and wallets discreetly away from Surviving Christmas, ignoring the sight as if Santa had just stepped in droppings from Donner and Blitzen." In The New York Times, Stephen Holden concluded, "This is a film that perversely refuses to trust its own comic instincts. Perhaps out of a fear of not having enough jokes, it throws in extra subplots and unnecessary characters to keep the pace frantic and the action muddled."
- "Worst of the Worst:2000s".
- "Surviving Christmas EW Review". Entertainment Weekly. October 20, 2004.
- Holden, Stephen (October 22, 2004). "You Can't Go Home, or Perhaps You Just Shouldn't". The New York Times.