You know it’s the holiday season when a family Christmas movie comes out. Something about seeing family dysfunction on the big screen brings out folks in droves. This year’s entry is Almost Christmas¸ a movie about as generic as its title. But just because a movie follows a cliché script doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
Almost Christmas stars Danny Glover as Walter Myers, a widowed father of four hoping his family can be civil for their first Christmas since the passing of his wife. His oldest daughter Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) is a doctor whose husband (J.B. Smoove) is a former basketball player with a wandering eye for a grocery store clerk (Keri Hilson). Cheryl also can’t seem to get along with her younger sister, Rachel (Gabrielle Union) a divorced single mother with middle child syndrome who is too proud to accept the advances of her high school best friend (Omar Epps). Walter’s oldest son, Christian (Romany Malco) is a husband (to Nicole Ari Parker) and father of two. He is also running for Congress and can’t help but bring along his annoying campaign manager (John Michael Higgins). The youngest of the siblings is Evan (Jessie Usher), a college football star coping with injuries and his mother’s passing by abusing pain pills. And then there’s Aunt May (Mo’Nique), Walter’s loud, foul mouthed sister in law.
As mentioned, the plot is about as systemic as any movie in the genre. A decade from now, it’ll be hard not to confuse this movie with This Christmas or even Best Man Holiday. From a cheating husband and petty sibling rivalry, to the all too common scene where the family inevitably dances to old school R&B, the movie does little to distance itself from the films that came before it. If not for Mo’Nique’s hilarious performance, the movie would be incredibly forgettable.
But things do pick up when all of their subplots come to a head. The final act is filled with the best laughs thanks in large part to J.B. Smoove’s cheating ways being exposed at Christmas dinner. The raw emotion of everyone finally dealing with the loss of a loved one is endearing even if it is a standard story arc. All in all, while it isn’t a classic by any stretch, Almost Christmas manages to be heartfelt and comical enough for the family to enjoy. After all, being with loved ones during the holidays is what makes the holidays, even when it’s basically the same thing over and over again.
FINAL GRADE: B-