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Surviving Christmas

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and a brief drug reference

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Comedy, Romance
1 hr. 32 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Copyright, DreamWorks Pictures
Copyright, DreamWorks Pictures
Copyright, DreamWorks Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, DreamWorks Pictures
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Featuring: Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, Jennifer Morrison
Director: Mike Mitchell
Producer: Betty Thomas, Jenno Topping
Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures

“Share the warmth”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “A rich record executive (Affleck) stuck with spending Christmas alone (after his girlfriend, played by Morrison, dumps him) decides to return to the one place where he was once happiest, his childhood home, asking the family that lives there now to take him in for their holiday celebrations, but he discovers that his new “family” is even more psychopathic than his real kin. (Applegate plays the daughter of the family, an intelligent scientist; Gandolfini and O’Hara play the parents).”


Writers Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Jeffrey Ventimilia and Joshua Sternin should be ashamed of themselves. This poor film was a waste of great talent. “Surviving Christmas” is one of those movies most people sit through on the false hope that something worth while will come along any minute now… any minute now… that was it? I am pleased to say that I actually survived this movie, I just pray the stars will—and get on with their careers.

Drew Latham (Ben Affleck trying to be oh-so-funny) is a relentless ad man working for a mega advertising company in New York who specializes in getting the public to buy what they don’t need. His big Christmas campaign consists of Egg Nog spiked with booze. He argues that everyone needs to have a way to “get through” Christmas anyway, so what better way then “getting shnockered” with this wonderful product? As everyone in this film is either bored, self absorbed, rude, or without morals, it is no wonder the “board” at the agency buys it and thinks it’s just the holiday ticket.

When Drew is questioned by a fellow employee as to why anyone would buy his ideas, he responds with this egotistic exclamation: “I can sell whale steaks to Green Peace!” Thus sets the premise for Drew’s character. He is crass, self centered, and looking only for his own profit.

Needless to say, I was already squirming in my seat, and I still had over an hour to go.

After Drew offers an expensive trip to Fiji, just to continue his empty relationship with his superficial girlfriend, which will take her away from her family for the holidays. She is appalled that he would want to go anywhere but home for this special occasion. It is found out later that she’s just in it for the presents anyway. Poor Drew is left alone on Christmas, but I didn’t feel so sorry for him after he attempts to get everyone in his black book to take him in over the Christmas Holiday. I did think it was unrealistic that everyone on his list was so cold—refusing to open their homes to someone who had nowhere else to go at Christmas—but this was supposed to be the “joke.” It sets us up for the rest of this sordid flick, depicting everyone as selfish and uncaring for any human being accept themselves. Now that’s the Christmas spirit!

Plodding along, we follow Drew to the crowded airport full of impatient people rushing home for the holiday. He pursues his girlfriend’s “shrink,” who doesn’t know Drew accept for what he’s heard about him, and tries desperately to get away from him. Just to get rid of Drew, the doctor quickly repeats his standard advise to “…go back to the place of your youth, where your childhood memories were made… write down all your grievances, burn up the piece of paper and say ‘I forgive you’.”

Drew does just that. During the ensuing mayhem after meeting up with the current residents of his childhood home, the completely dysfunctional Valco family, Drew signs them to a contract to allow him to spend the Christmas holidays with them for a tidy sum of $250,000 (of which the bribe gets steadily higher and higher as Drew requires more and more outlandish things out of them). Halfway through this mess the Valco’s daughter, Alicia, shows up (an always funny, but completely wasted performance by Christina Applegate) who appropriately disapproves of the whole outlandish idea.

As this half-witted farce progresses, we are witness to an array of tasteless episodes until we are all put out of our misery and are allowed to leave (some running out of) the theater.

Mrs. Valco (Catherine O’Hara in a tired, unforgiving performance) among other offensive things, is rewarded with a glitzy New York model photo shoot from Drew that is a grotesque display of sordid sexuality. She only remembers the car where she and her husband had their first date upon looking at the back seat. Not funny.

Mr. Valco (James Gandolfini hiding behind a beard, and I don’t blame him) cares little for his family and is more content drinking beer, accepting bribes, getting propositioned by hookers, and bullying Drew. Not funny.

Little brother Brian (Josh Zuckerman) hides in his room all day and night viewing porn sites on which his Mom’s “modeling” pics show up “shooting V for victory” much to his painful displeasure. Drew’s hired-out “GraPa” (Bill Macy) consoles Brian by relating to him that in his day they had to “go behind the barn and pay’em a quarter.” Unbearably not funny.

Through it all, Alicia finds some redeeming quality in Drew and manages to fall in love with him. There is a big misunderstanding when his girlfriend from New York receives an outlandishly expensive gift from Drew and decides to show up at his “family’s” home as a Christmas surprise. All this could have been really funny, but to the writers’ great misfortune, it is just scene after scene filled with more of the same crude humor.

As we gruelingly reach the conclusion of this morally offensive Christmas story, the audience is suppose to relate to Drew’s unfortunate upbringing, be warmed by the fact that he gets the right girl for him, and feel all warm and fuzzy that this mess comes to a mirthful ending. Sorry, not gonna happen.

The PG-13 rating is a joke in itself. This film is not fit for kids under or over 13; in fact, it’s not fit for anyone. Parents should know that this movie includes jokes about incest, pornography, cross-dressing, masturbation, and marijuana. Characters drink, smoke and use lots of strong language. “Pain in the A**” once, A** twice, Sh** twice, Bull-Sh** once, reference to the home as being a “Sh**-hole” once, Bit** once, He** three times, and the Lord’s name taken in vain numerous times. The expletives “screw the family” and being hit “…right in the nuts” are examples of these character’s articulations. There is comic peril, and the violence includes smacking someone in the head with a shovel (make sure you tell your kids not to try this at home). One of the contented “families” Drew’s character sees having a happy time on Christmas include a gay couple.

One comment that had me reeling was a hurtful joke made in reference to Sonny Bono’s tragic death while skiing. What will the family of this talented man think when his death is mocked in such an abusive, unfeeling way? There is a difference between humor and vulgarity.

“Surviving Christmas” was so awful that I just don’t know where to begin advising Christians on the moral issues! It runs rampant with distasteful and embarrassing episodes—up to and including premarital, unprotected sex, greed, selfishness, children and pornography, incestuous overtones, divorce, suicide, racist references, in fact it just about covers all the qualities Paul expounds in Galatians 5:19-21 are works of the flesh and sin. All those who practice these shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Paul also tells us here “Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Make sure your kids know that we are dead in the trespasses of sin.

It is obvious that the very observance of our Lord’s birth is mocked by this film. The Christmas holiday is a time reserved for reverence of our Savior’s birth. Even though Christ was not born on December 25th, Christians have set aside this time in our lives to celebrate His glorious birth knowing He was sacrificed 33 years later at great cost, to save every last human being from eternal death. Respect of that fact is destroyed by any degenerate edict such as that displayed within this tasteless film.

If you heed my warning, you and your family will not be viewing this film, but there are points to ponder to “survive” into eternal life. Discuss these relevant issues together:

  • Many people glory in there own accomplishments. What should we glory in? (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

  • Who is really responsible for the darkness in this world? (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9).

  • The world is full of many false values. To whom do we look for the foundation of right knowledge? (Proverbs 2:6).

Scripture is the foundation of knowledge. The Bible shows the root cause of every problem that has plagued the human family since creation. God’s Word reveals the true values by which we must live if we are to solve our massive relationship problems. Christ will be there for us to solve the seemingly insoluble dilemmas that threaten to overwhelm us, not the advice of man made psychotherapy. Our survival depends on our reliance on Christ and our thankfulness for His birth, death and resurrection. The meaning of Christmas lies in hope and love.

Fred Bauer put it well. I quote, “…No one travels the same path after coming to Jesus. Once we have found Bethlehem, bowed down before the Master and surrendered our lives in service to Him, He tops our offering with an incomparable gift of His own. The wise men brought Him the world’s riches—gold, frankincense and myrrh. He gave them something priceless: a vision of life more abundant.” We shall survive knowing and trusting in this vision of life!

The Baby has been born! Merry Christmas!

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I thought that the movie was excellent, and the acting was excellent. The movie was real funny, too. But there was a scene in the movie where the son was up in His room on the computer looking at porn pictures on a Web site, but only briefly—but uncalled for. The profanity was light.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
Positive—A “feel-good” story which calls upon universal feelings of family and Christmas. There are a few laughs here, but not as many as in, say, “Meet the Parents.” Light profanity was unnecessary to the film, but is about what one expects in a PG-13 movie today. My wife and I are no fans of Ben Affleck, but he does a decent job in this role. All-in-all, a decent popcorn movie and a good way to kill a Saturday afternoon.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Ron Reames, age 57
Neutral—This movie had some funny moments in it, although there was quite a bit of bad language through out the movie, the son viewing porn from his computer (do NOT approve of!), lying, etc. It could have been a better movie.
My Ratings: [Average/2½]
—KC, age 23

Comments from young people
Negative—From the tv advertisements, I thought this movie was going to a good holiday movie. My family and I went to see it, and boy were we wrong. The main character is this greedy guy who pays for what he wants. He “rents” a family, messes with people’s feelings, lives, and memories. The sexual side was not for the family at all. This is one of those movies I wish I had never seen.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Meri, age 17
Positive—I enjoyed this movie a lot! It was fun and Christmas like. I almost didn’t see this movie because of what the reviewer posted, But I’m glad I did. The movie had some offensive things in it, like the son spending all his time in his room on his computer on bad sites. When I read about the son I thought he was like 10 or 11, I thought, oh my gosh! That’s just wrong that they’d put that in there. The son is like 16, It still is bad, but some guy’s do do that.(YUCK!) I thought the egg nog thing was kinda funny, they didn’t mean for it to be offensive, but funny, and I thought it was. The egg nog and the stuff with the boy are only in a little bit of it. Here’s the worst thing, the mother does a photo shoot and is in trashy clothing. It ended with everyone together, the boy throw’s his computer of the step’s after seeing his mother’s photos on there, and say’s nothing is un-seen. and he end’s up with a pretty girl, Ben’s person end’s up with the girl, the mother and father are happy together. The offensive stuff isn’t that bad, it’s to be expected in PG-13 movie to have some offensive thing’s in it. But they don’t push it. It’s not in there that much. The language was actually mild, I know the reveiwer said it was, but having seen a bunch of PG-13 movies, I know, it’s pretty mild, No G-D or F-s in it. :)
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—MichelleBob, age 14
Movie Critics
…Stale as a week-old cheeseball… lame plot …raunch-filled…
—Annabelle Robertson, Crosswalk
…If Hans Blix is still searching for bombs, he should check out Surviving Christmas…
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post
…stupid swill… slapped together without a brain…
—Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
…the emotions are false, the sentiments are phony, and the story is a construction of mirthless silliness…
—Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
…little more than a big screen sitcom…
—Sean Axmaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
…Surviving Christmas? Try surviving all 91 minutes of this holiday melodrama…
—David Germain, Atlanta Journal-Constitution