Perhaps it was the chaos and roller-coaster of emotions I, myself, and millions of others experienced this week, or perhaps I was just desperately in need for a simple, effective comedy, but for whatever reason, I laughed loudly and frequently during Almost Christmas. Faithful readers will take note of my routine cynicism towards these usually disposable, dime-a-dozen efforts that try to capitalize off of the instant "Christmas in November" rush many enjoy, like Four Christmases and last year's Love the Coopers for example, but this one was different, more fun, and more consistent in its sincerity and humor.
The film follows the Meyers family, a somewhat-dysfunctional family turned incredibly dysfunctional following the death of their matriarch, which renders their Christmas family gathering in 2016 the first one without the presence of their unifying member. Her surviving husband Walter (Danny Glover) tries to pick up the slack, but can't do it all, so he reluctantly asks for the assistance of his daughters, Rachel (Gabrielle Union), a single and happily married woman, Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), who is married to Lonnie (J.B. Smoove), and his sons Christian (Romany Malco), who is mysteriously up for congressional reelection during the Christmas season, and Evan (Jessie Usher), a young, rising football star addicted to painkillers. By Walter's side is Aunt May (Mo'Nique), the sister of his late wife.
All Walter asks is for the family to get along for just five days for the sake of their mother, who would be appalled to see how her siblings can't even make it through a cordial dinner without bickering. During this time, whenever the group begins to bicker, all they need to do is recall the kindred spirit of their mother, or bust a move to the infectious song "Let it Whip" by The Dazz Band in order to regroup and remember what is the most important thing in their lives.
David E. Talbert
Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover
11 November 2016
Steve's Grade: B
As expected, a lot of drama prevails throughout the entire film. Rachel can't help but shun every man who has waltzes into her life, including those just trying to lend a helping hand, much to the dismay of her daughter. Christian becomes so caught up in pining for congressional success that he succeeds in undermining the foster-care facility that his mother worked so hard to build and assist. And Lonnie winds up flirting with a grocery store clerk (Keri Hilson), which leads to him subsequently cheating on his wife and an awkward conversation come Christmas dinner.
Little, if anything, in Almost Christmas breaks new ground but everything carries a great sense of genial, light-hearted humor that succeeds in being authentic, rather than reliant on racial stereotypes. Not only is this a feel-good holiday film, it's a damn-good one, with a plethora of characters that transcend the boundaries of vacuous stereotypes and character relations that feel fleshed out and developed for once. The biggest problem I've found with films of this classification is that their characters, plot, and subplots do not justify the often two-hour runtime of the picture. This was the first time in a while where I didn't find the lengthy runtime to be burdensome; it was a pleasant treat spending time with these characters.
Almost Christmas does a fine job at getting you in the holiday spirit, as well as reminding you that actresses like Mo'Nique, Kimberly Elise, and the uproariously funny J.B. Smoove can all excel when given roles that match their own personal strengths. There's also enough character-interest and warm-hearted humor, even at its most vulgar heights, to perpetuate a feel-good nature all around and justify its nearly two-hour runtime. There's a lot of fun to be had, and right now, I feel we could all use that.