Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike Mitchell|
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Edited by||Craig McKay|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
|Box office||$15.1 million|
Surviving Christmas is a 2004 American romantic comedy film directed by Mike Mitchell, written by Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan, Jeffrey Ventimilia, and Joshua Sternin based on a story by Elfont and Kaplan, and starring Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate and Catherine O'Hara.
Originally slated for a Christmas 2003 release, the film was pushed back to avoid competition with Affleck's 2003 sci-fi thriller Paycheck. The film was a critical and commercial failure, grossing $15.1 million worldwide from a $45 million budget, making it a box office bomb.
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Drew Latham is a wealthy advertising executive. Just before Christmas, he surprises his girlfriend Missy 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, 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 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 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.
Drew takes Alicia and her brother Brian sledding the next day. After crashing at the bottom of a hill, he moves in to 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. 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 glamour 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 glamour 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 as Drew Latham
- James Gandolfini as Tom Valco
- Christina Applegate as Alicia Valco
- Catherine O'Hara as Christine Valco
- Josh Zuckerman as Brian Valco
- Bill Macy as Doo-Dah/Saul
- Jennifer Morrison as Missy Vangilder
- Udo Kier as Heinrich
- David Selby as Horace Vangilder
- Stephanie Faracy as Letitia Vangilder
- Stephen Root as Dr. Freeman
- Sy Richardson as Doo-Dah Understudy
- Tangie Ambrose as Kathryn
- Peter Jason as Suit
- Ray Buffer as Arnie
- Phill Lewis as Levine the Lawyer
- Hailey Noelle Johnson as Little girl
- Sean Marquette as Older brother
- Sonya Eddy as Security lady
- Tom Kenny as Man wrapping gift
Surviving Christmas opened theatrically on October 22, 2004 in 2,750 venues, earning $4,441,356 in its opening weekend and ranking seventh in the North American box office and second among the week's new releases. The film ended its run on November 23, 2004 with $11,663,156 domestically and $3,457,644 overseas for a worldwide total of $15,120,800.
The film was panned by critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 7% score based on 112 reviews, with an average rating of 3/10. The site's consensus states: "Surviving Christmas is unpleasant characters attacking each other for 90 minutes before delivering a typical, hollow anti-consumerist message." It was ranked #91 in the site's 100 worst reviewed films of the 2000s. Metacritic reports a 19 out of 100 rating based on 29 critics, which means "overwhelming dislike".
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."
- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture (lost to Catwoman)
- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor (Affleck; lost to George W. Bush in Fahrenheit 9/11)
- Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screenplay (lost to Catwoman)
The film was released on DVD on December 21, 2004, just two months after its theatrical release.
- "Surviving Christmas (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. September 21, 2004. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
- "Surviving Christmas (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. November 23, 2004. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for October 22-24, 2004". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. October 25, 2004. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
- "Surviving Christmas (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
- "Worst of the Worst: 2000s". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster.
- "Surviving Christmas reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
- "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.