By Darlene Donloe
If it’s November, it’s Almost Christmas, which is also the name of Universal’s feel good movie of the holiday season.
The film, out nationwide Friday, Nov. 11, is a comedy directed and written by David E. Talbert and produced by Will Packer (This Christmas).
The film, set in Birmingham, AL., is about a patriarch, played by Danny Glover, who asks his four grown children and sister-in-law to come home for one last time to spend five days together under one roof. It’s the first time the family has spent the holiday under the family’s roof since the wife/mother passed away. The father, who clearly knows his children, is hoping they will not kill each other, but will, instead, find some kind of way to live in harmony for five days.
Sounds easy enough, but that’s just not how this family rolls. Everybody has issues. Some have more than their share.
One by one family members traipse through the door to spend family time. First through the door is Aunt May, played by the hilarious Mo’Nique. She is the sister-in-law, who has delusions of being a good cook and who occasionally drinks too much. She is a background singer who has played with all of the popular musicians. She is loud, flamboyant and a bit outrageous, but she’s also a lot of fun.
Gabrielle Union plays Rachel, one of the sisters who is having financial difficulties. She has a rivalry with her older sister, Cheryl, played by Kimberly Elise. Their sibling rivalry stretches back to their childhood. Cheryl, who is married to Lonnie, has done well with her life and wonders why Rachel hasn’t done the same. Lonnie, is played by JB Smoove. Lonnie has a lapse in judgment when he hits on a grocery store clerk.
Christian, played by Romany Malco, is the oldest son. He is currently running for office. His issue comes when he must decide whether to close something that was near and dear to his mother, or whether to further his political career. Christian’s wife, played by Nicole Ari Parker and their two children are yearning to get more of his time. Rachel is pursued by Malachi (Omar Epps), a next-door neighbor she dated in high school. Rachel is still holding a grudge for the miscommunication that resulted in them not attending the prom. The youngest son Evan (Jessie T. Usher) also has issues. Considered an accidental birth baby by his siblings, Evan has mother issues.
There are some funny moments in the film. There are also some hits and misses. It feels very familiar. It’s somewhere between Packer’s 2007 hit, This Christmas and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins.
David E. Talbert has assembled a fine cast that delivers the dialogue and plays it up for laughs. Some of the laughs are over the top. Some are priceless. There are also some genuine emotional moments that help to round out the comedy/drama. That being said, the material feels too recognizable. There are no surprise, hidden gems to set it apart.
Almost Christmas isn’t a standout, however, in the end, it's all about love and family. You can never go wrong with that combination.
Almost Christmas, directed and written by David E. Talbert and produced by Will Packer, stars Kimberly Elise, Mo'Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, Gabrielle Union, Jessie Usher, Danny Glover, DC Young Fly, Omar Epps, and Romany Malco.
Almost Christmas is RATED: PG-13, Running time: 1h 52min
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Almost Christmas gets an L (likeable).