By Coshandra Dillard
What black family doesn’t have the lovable but foul-mouthed auntie, an egotistical uncle, an independent but indecisive woman, and a do-gooder? And what Christmas movie doesn’t have a dramatic dinner table scene? You’ll find that and more in “Almost Christmas.”
If you need to decompress from a hellish week of political discourse you won’t be disappointed by the Universal Studios film.
The all-star cast includes Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Mo’Nique, Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, John Michael Higgins, Romany Malco, JB Smoove, Nicole Ari Parker, Jessie T. Usher and DC Young Fly.
Monique’s character, Aunt May, is the epitome of the cool auntie who hilariously tells the truth but is also wise and loving. She’s a source of a bag of laughs in each of her scenes.
Music is an important part of the film, with the score of The OJays’ “Ain’t No Women Like the One I Got” at the beginning and end. It connects the love between the patriarch Walter Meyers, played by Glover, and his now deceased wife, Grace. A very familiar and heart warming sequence with music and dancing occurs about halfway through the film, when three songs from three eras are enjoyed by the Meyers women and girls as they try to figure out Christmas dinner.
“Almost Christmas” has the same formula as a lot of holiday movies: an aging parent demands family–seemingly unsuccessfully at first–to get along during the season. I don’t think we tire from these, since it’s real for many families.
And like with “Soul Food”–where a family fights to pull together in absence of a strong matriarch–“Almost Christmas” examines conflicts following the loss of their beloved Grace, whose big heart and signature recipes bonded them like glue.
While entertaining, it’s not perfect. Malco’s character, Christian Meyers, is running for Congress but it’s December 2016 (Huh?). There are plenty of story lines that are random and sometimes not explained, such as the tension between sisters Rachel, played by Union, and Cheryl, played by Elise. And there is an awkwardness in the echo of a voiceover of Epps’ character’s mother, who lives near the Meyers. Like, why not just hire an on-scene extra for that? Lastly, the cinematography could have been a lot better.
Nonetheless, it remains a feel-good holiday movie that reminds us to squash family drama and teaches the importance of living, laughing and loving. In a time when we’re still fighting for projects that display a wide spectrum of black life, it’s important to support this film.
The comedy is by writer and director David E. Talbert of Baggage Claim and producer Will Packer, who produced movies such as Ride Along, the Think Like a Man series, and This Christmas.