It’s that time of year again, the most wonderful time of the year, as children dream of a jolly fat man in a red suit, studio execs dream of having the next Elf, Miracle On 34th Street, Home Alone or It’s A Wonderful Life.
Yes, it’s Christmas time and with it comes advert after advert of toys you never knew existed, and cheesy, usually love stories, you never knew you wanted.
Surviving Christmas With The Relatives marks the return of James Dearden, who most of you will know as the writer of Fatal Attraction, he also wrote Rogue Trader, the story of Nick Leeson, and this is the first film he’s directed since that 1999 movie, and the first he’s written since 2012.
Christmas stories, not dissimilar to their song counterparts, come in a few flavours: there’s the madcap, running around, everything going wrong but will come right in the end type of movie. Then there’s the drama, sadness, tears, but everything’s all right in the end. Or the romcom, the usual one these days.
Surviving Christmas With The Relatives doesn’t necessarily fit within any of these categories. It’s not a madcap, none stop rollercoaster ride of high-jinks, belly laughs and “doh” moments. Though you sense, at times, it was trying to be.
Because of this any drama that’s in the movie, and there’s a fair amount for a Christmas movie, tends to feel a little odd, a bit uncomfortable, like you’ve eaten far too much Turkey and are now regretting it.
The film follows Dan, Julian Ovenden (“Downton Abbey (TV)”, “Knightfall (TV)”), his wife Miranda, Gemma Whelan (“Horrible Histories (TV)”, “Game Of Thrones (TV)”), and their three children as they welcome their entire family, and many extras, to the family home which is mid-way through an extensive renovation.
This later part you’d expect to be used in some kind of The Money Pit high-jinks, but it isn’t, in fact, other than a few passing comments and a regular joke about a leaky pipe, it’s hardly used at all, which is, well, odd.
The sister arrives, Lyla, Joely Richardson (“Maggie“, “Nip/Tuck (TV)”), now the star of a TV series in the US, with her alcoholic, jobless husband Trent, Michael Landes (“Gold“, “Lakeview Terrace”), and their daughter and spoilt son.
There’s also standup comedian Ronnie Ancona, Sally Phillips (“Burn Burn Burn“, “Pride And Prejudice And Zombies“), as the ex-wife, Patricia Hodge (“Miranda (TV)”, “Waking The Dead (TV)”) as the aunty and a whole host of others who come and go.
Speaking of which, at times characters do have a habit of completely disappearing, they aren’t even mentioned sometimes, and then, like magic, they’re back in the game again.
Surviving Christmas With The Relatives isn’t set to become your new go to Christmas film, it has a well-used (overused?) storyline and not enough laughs. But the main issue is that the whole thing just doesn’t feel snappy enough, it feels drawn out at times, weighed down by it’s own thoughts.
It’s a film that you’ll watch one Christmas, having eaten far too much Turkey and can’t find the remote, and think, “huh, that was ok”, and then grab your Christmas Pudding.
Surviving Christmas With The Relatives is available on DVD and Digital from 11th November and you can win a copy on DVD by entering our competition here.