Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Surviving Christmas
USA 2004 : Mike MITCHELL : 90 mins
Though undeniably on the poor side of average, Surving Christmas doesn’t quite deserve the predictable knee-jerk battering (“Ben Affleck’s Christmas turkey”) it’s received from American and British critics. Saying that, I might well have headed for the exit before the hour mark if I hadn’t noticed the unexpected presence of Udo Kier in the opening titles. As it turned out, Kier’s contribution is minimal – he has one scene as Heinrich, a temperamental fashion photographer – but it was amusing to see him getting work in yet another Hollywood production, even one as undistinguished as this DreamWorks release. And by this stage there had been just enough in the way of laughs to keep me in my seat to the end.
Mitchell clearly isn’t much of a director – he continually bombards us with Randy Edelman’s thuddingly muzak-ish score, while the bland, slightly fuzzy cinematography is credited (unusually) to two DoPs, Peter Collister and Tom Priestly Jr. The opening titles also reveal that the script is the responsibility of two separate pairs of writers – Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont, Jeffrey Ventimilia & Joshua Sternin. And the screenplay turns out to be the main problem: it’s riddled with lazy inconsistencies, wild implausibilities and grating absurdities from (wobbly) start to (predictable) finish.
These conspire to present star Affleck (seemingly now typecast as an obnoxious yuppie who eventually sees sense) in the worst possible light, and he also has the show stolen from him by supporting players James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara and veteran Bill Macy (not to be confused with William H), all of whom deserve much better material than they receive here.
6th December, 2004
[seen 3rd December : CineWorld, Sunderland : public show]
by Neil Young