A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie includes jokes about incest, pornography, and marijuana. Characters drink and smoke and use some strong language. There's comic peril and violence, including smacking someone with a shovel. The happy families Drew sees on Christmas include a gay couple, but this is intended to be humorous, not inclusive.
What's the story?
In SURVIVING CHRISTMAS, wealthy ad exec Drew (Ben Affleck) is dumped by his girlfriend because he has never introduced her to his family and wants to go to Fiji for Christmas. Horrified at the thought of being alone on Christmas, he offers the family now living in his childhood home a quarter of a million dollars if they will pretend to be his family through Christmas. The family is headed by the unhappily married Tom (James Gandolfini) and Christine (Catherine O'Hara). Their son Brian spends all his time in his room surfing the Internet for porn. Their daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate) is horrified to find her family rented out for the season and refuses to participate. They all begin to warm up to each other, and then Drew's former girlfriend gets his expensive gift and thinks she will drop in on Drew to start things up again.
Is it any good?
In what is intended to be one of the most revealing and touching scenes in Surviving Christmas, Drew turns a lovely gesture into a crass, garish, and cringe-inducing display. Take away the revealing and touching part, and you've pretty much got a description of the movie itself. For example, Drew gives Christine a makeover with a photo shoot and the pictures turn up on Brian's favorite porn site. And there is the painful attempt at humor in having Drew's girlfriend see him kissing Alicia and thinking it's his sister. There are also long, almost unendurable slogs through the "aw" moments when everyone starts to develop warm feelings for everyone else and the "oops" moments when the former girlfriend shows up.
James Gandolfini does his best to pretend he is not actually in this slack, dumb, boring, and charmless movie by hiding behind a beard. The rest of the cast look as though they wish they had thought of it, too. They all have that bleak, glazed, "maybe, with any luck, this will go straight to video and never be heard from again" look.
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