Surviving Christmas


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"It's the best Christmas movie of the year so far!"










Surviving Christmas
The Masked Reviewer

Brando.  Paccino.  Olivier.  DeNiro.   And now, the latest addition to the list of master thespians...Affleck.  Of course, he's a bit further down on the list.  He's somewhere between Jim Varney and Pauly Shore.  

Trashing a Ben Affleck movie is like beating a dead horse.  But the dead horse of Ben Affleck's career somehow keeps breathing.  It gets up, it trots to the next crappy movie, and it collapses again.  There are so many easy shots to take at this film that the Masked Reviewer doesn't think it's challenging. 

It's Reindeer Games meets Gigli.

It'll bomb like Pearl Harbor.

You'll be lucky to survive Surviving Christmas.


But what happened to the Christmas spirit?  Surely, in the name of peace and love, the Masked Reviewer could come up with some positive things to say about the movie?  Sure!  Why not?  It's Christmas!  Well, okay, it's not Christmas...but I'm sure the film makers decided that a late October release for Surviving Christmas would be good, since it will definitely be running for eight weeks.  It's a guaranteed mega-hit.  Ben Affleck is box office gold, you know.

Here's the positive: It's the best Christmas movie of the year so far!

There!  You probably thought the Masked Reviewer couldn't come up with anything, didn't you?  (By the way, "best Christmas of movie of the year" doesn't refer to the  calendar year; both Bad Santa and Elf were much better.  The "year" means the year starting October 15th.)

So, maybe this criticism isn't constructive so far.  Just because Ben Affleck starred in Boiler Room, Paycheck, Jersey Girl, Pearl Harbor, Bounce, Dogma, Daredevil, Reindeer Games, Sum of All Fears, and, of course, Gigli, doesn't mean that every movie he's in is horrible.  Right?  Changing Lanes with Samuel L. Jackson wasn't that bad.  Daredevil had moments.  And, let's not forget Armageddon -- it's symbolic of the rest of his career.

The Masked Reviewer is going to write this review without one single mention of Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo).  Ben Affleck (B-Fleck) and J-Lo are over.  Move on with your lives.  You don't have to mention J-Lo in everything written about B-Fleck.  He's got enough problems without bringing her up.

Okay, on to the heart of the issue.  It's not that Ben Affleck is a bad guy -- he seems like a nice enough fellow.  It's not like he's a giant annoying pretentious fat head like Jon Favreau...B-Fleck has some charm.  The problem is, his charm isn't enough to carry a movie.

There are a lot of actors who, no matter what they appear in, have a bigger presence themselves than their character.  Whatever movie they're in, it's them.  Spencer Tracy.  Humphrey Bogart.  Pauly Shore.  You don't see the character past the actor.  Ben Affleck may have that problem (if it is a problem).  Look at every performance he's given in the last six years.  He plays one part: Ben Affleck.  To his credit, he plays that part perfectly. 

Whenever he tries to "act", it looks like Ben Affleck acting.  And no one should have to pay money to see that.

In Surviving Christmas, Ben Affleck plays a very peppy, energetic, kind of innocent (while kind of sleezy) character.  He's basically a straight Richard Simmons.  That should be enough info for most people right there. 

James Gandolfini (of "Sopranos" fame) and Catherine O'Hara (A Mighty Wind) provide the support for B-Fleck.  To their credit, both James Gandolfini and Catherine O'Hara (no relation to O'Hare airport in Chicago) don't try to be over-the-top and goofy...their performances are just right for this kind of movie.  James Gandolfini has perfected the icy cold contemptuous stare of death.  It's the same look you'll have in your eye when you leave the theater after seeing Surviving Christmas, as you think about the ten bucks you just blew. 

It's also the same look that he probably shot at his agent for getting him involved in this project.

The story is flimsy.  It's Hack 101.  Granted, it's a comedy, but the writers could have tried a little bit harder.  All the jokes can be seen coming from a mile away.  And when they arrive, they're not worth the wait.  There's nothing that the Masked Reviewer can even single out as a funny moment.  From the opening montage (which establishes that it's Christmas season, but doesn't set the tone for a comedy) to the last scene, there's nothing that's memorably funny.  You might chuckle a few times, but the biggest laughs come from how pathetic it is. 

And that's where Surviving Christmas comes close to succeeding, strangely.  Ben Affleck is way over-the-top, and the script is corny and just plain stupid.  But at times, you can laugh (while sadly shaking your head and saying "Oh brother...").  It almost seems like that's where they were trying to go, like maybe Ben Affleck realized that the only laughs to be had were at him rather than with him.  Maybe that's giving him too much credit, but it's something.

There's a love story, too.  There had to be, right?  B-Fleck is a heartthrob, so they brought in Christina Applegate ("Married with Children") to provide that magical holiday romantic spark.  Again, weak writing makes that element of the story entirely unbelievable.  One moment, they hate each other, the next (and this might be considered a big spoiler, so don't read the rest of this sentence if you don't want a big surprise ruined!) they kiss.  You knew it would happen, there's no question, just like everything else in the movie.

It's a Ben Affleck movie.  Those five words tell you all you need to know.  If you love him, you'll enjoy it.  He tries, but he needs better agents to get him into roles that he can play.  Perhaps he'll get the lead in "The Ben Affleck Story".  He'd be good.


Expectation from the Title: After his sleigh crashes on a deserted island, Santa won't have his elves to help him; he'll have to make it on his own.  It's Cast Away meets Miracle on 42nd Street.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Ben Affleck seems like a nice person.

The Pros: There are some classic catchy Christmas tunes in the soundtrack. 

The Cons: Horrible writing, predictable, not funny.

If you're looking for information on Ben Afleck, you came to the right place!

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