David E Talbert steers a predictable story of seasonal dysfunction, with Danny Glover
Yeah, it's yet another a seasonal movie about a dysfunctional family coming together for a fraught holiday. When recently widowed, bereft Dad (Danny Glover) presides over the homecoming of his four grown children, their precociously cutesy offspring and his outrageous sister-in-law (Academy Award winner Mo'Nique) events over the five days counting down to turkey time follow the traditional recipe for festive fare. Old resentments are aired, unwelcome revelations are bared, kitchen disasters abound and tears will fall before everyone remembers they love each other, really.
Okay, we have seen worse Christmas movies. There are a few chuckles here: Glover mutters his ever-popular Lethal Weapon refrain, 'I'm too old for this shit,'; Mo'Nique works a hot pink wig and a sassy one-liner; and a decapitation of a rooftop Santa decoration is mildly diverting. The dramatic elements in this comedy drama, however, as the various progeny work through their troubles, are thinly stretched and tedious. Eldest son Christian (Romany Malco) is running for Congress and guiltily betraying his parents' most personal cause; baby boy Evan (Jessie T Usher), a college football star, is hiding his drug dependence; and sisters Cheryl and Rachel (Kimberly Elise and Gabrielle Union) are noisily at each other's throats about everything.
The mostly engaging African-American ensemble is game (Glover is genuinely touching and Omar Epps as the guy next door is welcome). But there's one particularly ill-judged bit here, with Rachel doing something so malicious to ruin her sister's Christmas and shaky marriage (honestly, who would do that?!) that it would take a lot more than bonding weepily over their departed mama's re-discovered recipes to get past it.
Playwright turned filmmaker David E Talbert's previous comedic forays, First Sunday and Baggage Claim (adapted from his own novel), made tidy profits at the US box office while barely registering here. The same is bound to be true for this modest effort.
Limited release from Fri 25 Nov.