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The One-Line Summary: Drew Latham (Ben Affleck), a millionaire advertising executive has never spent Christmas alone, but when his girlfriend Missy (Jennifer Morrison) can’t believe he wants to go to Fiji instead of introducing her to his family, she ends their relationship, leaving him with a half-baked idea from a therapist who suggests he compile a list of his shortcomings and burn them at his childhood home, where he ends up hiring the new owners of that house, including their lovely daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate), to pretend to be his family for the holiday.
The Two-Line Blurb: Directed by Mike Mitchell, Surviving Christmas is a shameless but harmless paint by numbers holiday film that sees an obnoxious, Scrooge-like character become transformed after learning valuable lessons of love and family and where getting hit over the head with a snow shovel is comedic and not life threatening. While most of the cast is likable and there are some (some) lightweight comedy moments that work, Affleck is the weakest, never finding the right tone between arrogant and charming, often looking utterly outmatched with the likes of James Gandolfini and Catherine O’Hara who have the best scenes as a couple finding their own way back to each other.
The Three-Line Set-up: This moment is all about the truth and begins when Drew attempts to win back his girlfriend Missy by having his assistant send her an expensive bracelet as a token of apology. By this time, Drew has paid the family to take part in a number of Christmas traditional activities, but has also begun falling in love with Alicia, the oldest daughter, whom has also taken an interest in this newcomer with money. After telling him about a special childhood memory about an old tree shimmering in ice after a storm, Drew, trying to be romantic, finds the old tree and covers it in ice for her, but goes overboard by making a public spectacle.
The Four-Line Moment: Things get more heated when suddenly, Missy shows up at the house, thinking this paid-for family is legit and invites her own parents to join them for a holiday dinner, which naturally spirals out of control for Drew as he tires to maintain (and pay for) the facade. While in the kitchen, his balancing act begins to teeter when Alicia arrives, not knowing about Missy, and confesses to Drew that despite how outrageous his gesture was with the tree, it moved her and she kisses him, revealing that she is ready to make a relationship. Not a minute later, Missy comes into the Kitchen (after Alicia steps out to retrieve a gift she has for Drew), and confesses how she has changed her mind about him and has become smitten with his family, planting a kiss on him, that, unknown to her, is seen by Alicia. The moment is a pitch-perfect romantic-comedy trope and with the added holiday spin, makes it the best part of the film.
The Five-Word Review: Generic and predictable holiday fare.