Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

St. Petersburg Times Online
Print storySubscribe to the Times

'Surviving Christmas' is cheerfully crude

Published October 25, 2004

[DreamWorks Pictures]
A truly funny Ben Affleck, left, stars as Drew Latham, a man in search of a merry Christmas, no matter what it means for his adopted family, including Brian Valco, played by Josh Zuckerman.

Billy Norris
Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

Movie: Surviving Christmas

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

Summary: Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) is a successful businessman who has pretty much everything he could want, except a loving family. When Christmas rolls around, he is left feeling empty and lonely. Even his girlfriend gives up on him because of his lack of holiday cheer. In an attempt to get over his lifelong grievance, he visits his childhood home, which is lived in by the (not so happy) Valco family. He longs to re-create the childhood memories of Christmas that he never had, and offers this hesitant family $250,000 to take him in as one of their own for the season. From the second he walks in the door, the Valcos are in for more than they bargained for, as they are required by contract to do whatever Drew asks of them.

My view: The weekend before Halloween seems like an odd time to release a Christmas movie, but it may be an interesting attempt to take a larger chunk out of the holiday market. As for the film, it is surprisingly fulfilling. The extremely quirky ensemble of characters gives off a National Lampoon sort of aura; think Christmas Vacation. Affleck is quite funny, and James Gandolfini, in a big departure from his leading role in The Sopranos, is great as the reluctantly submissive Tom Valco. Catherine O'Hara, as a definitely different kind of mom than she played in the Home Alone movies, added some zest. Christina Applegate plays the relatively normal member of the family, daughter Alicia, who also fills the requisite role as love interest to Affleck's character. Then there's the obsessed son, Brian (Josh Zuckerman), who adds some crudeness to the movie. The cast wryly delivers the quips and jibes that are sprinkled throughout the script, sometimes bordering on the outrageous. While not necessarily tasteful, it is funny. The story was an amusing change from your typical joyful holiday film, yet it had the cliche happy ending and love story that seem to find their way into almost every film. Although not likely to reach classic status, this one is worth the price of admission.

Recommendations: Heed the rating, and wait until the holidays come a little closer - at least until Halloween passes - to see it.

Grade: B

- Billy Norris, 16, is in the 11th grade at Seminole High School, and is a former member of the X-Team.

[Last modified October 22, 2004, 10:48:09]

Here's the rest of today's Xpress

  • Ballots for some favorite public figures
  • Halloween fun
  • Politically Speaking
  • Xpressions rules
  • 'Surviving Christmas' is cheerfully crude
  • Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111