Surviving Christmas
dir. Mitchell
Opens Fri Oct 22
Various Theaters

The true test of a good Christmas movie is if you can see yourself watching it every year and still laughing (or crying) at the appropriate moments. A Christmas Story? Yes. Miracle on 34th Street? Yes. Even Bad Santa? Yes. But I never want to see Surviving Christmas again for as long as I live, let alone every humpin' holiday season. (And why the hell are they pimping a Christmas movie in freakin' October? I picture greedy studio heads insisting "We've got to make a few bucks off those shlumps who MUST HAVE CHRISTMAS NOW!")

At the core of Surviving Christmas is a tired, saggy plot about a rich ad exec (Ben Affleck) who doesn't want to spend the holidays alone--so he rents out the family currently inhabiting his childhood home. But things (of course) get complicated when the family's daughter (Christina Applegate) arrives home and wants nothing to do with the deal. Adding injury to insult, Affleck's girlfriend then shows up to "meet the parents" with decidedly unfunny results--lame jokes about incest, internet porn, and horny old people ensue.

The real tragedy about this "comedy" is that it wastes the immense talents of James Gandolfini and Catherine O'Hara, who play Affleck's rented parents while looking trapped and unhappy. The rest of the time, the film focuses on Affleck doing comedy, an act which is a lot like forcing a whale through the eye of a needle: tedious, bloody, and painful.

And Hollywood, one more thing: if you think it's okay to keep moving up the release dates of your stinking Christmas movies... think again. There's a reason those year-round Christmas stores go out of business. Nobody wants to think about eggnog when they're busy trying to figure out what to be for Halloween.