Surviving Christmas (review)

The annual holiday assault has arrived, and don’t think “assault” isn’t the right word; this is but the first dementedly wrongheaded satire on family and togetherness we’re in for this season. Ben Affleck (Jersey Girl) gets whacked in the noggin with a snow shovel and, in this neurologically altered state, decides to hire the awful family who now live in his childhood home to adopt him for Christmas. He’s just your average cynical millionaire advertising executive desperate for human contact; they’re greedy, low-class Bickersons (dad is James Gandolfini: [The Last Castle]; mom, Catherine O’Hara [A Mighty Wind]) who’ll do just about anything for money, including exiling their teenaged son to the unfinished garage in bitterest Chicago winter to make room for a total stranger who’s clearly insane (it becomes obvious soon enough that that head injury actually had little to no affect on the functioning of his brain). It’s as if someone felt that the only flaw in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star was that the excruciating Christmas sequence just wasn’t long enough. The parade of pratfalls and humiliations feel as contractually obliged by the demands of “contemporary comedy” as the faux merriment and forced joy are by Affleck’s character’s lawyer. After 70 minutes of abuse doled out all ’round, during which you will be invited to laugh at the expense of all these terrible people, suddenly it turns all gooey and sentimental, and you will be asked to turn cuddly and warm and open your heart to them. You won’t.

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