Release Date: November 11, 2016
Director: David E. Talbert
Writer: David E. Talbert
Cast: Kimberly Elise, Danny Glover, Omar Epps, Mo’Nique, Romany Malco, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Jessie T. Usher, John Michael Higgins, Gabrielle Union, Nadej K. Bailey, Alkoya Brunson, Marley Taylor, D.C Young Fly, Keri Hilson, Gladys Knight, Chloe Spencer, Gregory Alan Williams, Tara Batesole, Jeff Rose, Ric Reitz, Ravi Naidu, Stephen A. Smith, Tara Jones, Johnny Land, Keon Mitchell, Rachel Kylian, Lyn Talbert, David E. Talbert, Donnie Simpson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 112 minutes
Production Company: Universal Pictures
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Even though the cast has a strong track record from previous films, there was something about the trailers that wasn’t appealing. It just seemed like another generic throw away project that would contain cheap jokes, with no heart, to make a little money. Sometimes surprises can come in all shapes and sizes, and this time it came wrapped up in Almost Christmas gift paper. With such a large cast, everyone had their time to shine; whether it dealt with comedy, drama, or a little bit of both. You could feel the family dynamic as each member showed who they were. You’ll laugh out loud, feel empowered from within, and might possibly realize what drives you, all in the power of love; which is an incredible notion.
Opening credits can be a bit of a jarring distraction, if they’re not used properly. Here director David E. Talbert (First Sunday, Baggage Claim) gave them purpose, painting the landscape of the family you’re getting to know. It was a nice way to set the tone and explain what’s important without lazy exposition. Besides the lovely soundtrack in the distance, it was a silent strike that set a warm loving atmosphere for the family to cope in. Then from that point on the film slowly pulled back layer after layer, going in between each family member, addressing what obstacles they might be facing in life. It was fun to see what each member wanted to reveal, and what they possibly wanted to hide. There were those who were loving, malicious, caring, apathetic, and a bunch more in between. It was the vast differences between each of them that made their Christmas weekend enjoyable to witness.
As the film progressed on, the daily black outs showing how many days there were before Christmas was annoying. The film would have a great act ending on a high note that didn’t transition smoothly to the next day, but had a huge black out with letters that ruined the flow. It was like having to cough during a perfect kiss. Though shortly after another family member was forcing you to laugh. Especially that of Aunt May’s (Mo’Nique) character. She had her own fierce way of being adorable. I loved it, and she would be a smart, strong, hilarious addition to anyone’s family. She had her own sense of swag and style that made her stand out, but she still knew her roots. Though everyone’s character can’t be your favorite, and Rachel (Gabrielle Union) wasn’t. All she did was complain and hold on to high school drama from 20 years ago. Plus, she wants to be ugly to everyone she meets. Her silly neglect in the kitchen was painful to watch due to her mindset and the tired writing that took place. The director dropped the ball there. The character I loathed the most was that of Uncle Lonnie (J.B. Smoove). The guy just isn’t funny at all and over acts every time he opens his eyes. If he would calm down a little it would be fine, but his presence just isn’t welcomed; especially when you come spraying a fire extinguisher in the kitchen like a possessed bat out of hell. Evan (Jesse T. Usher) could’ve kept his emotions in check to. Personally I don’t see how I would still be alive if I disrespected my father the way he did. The great thing is, there are far more lovable characters than there are dull ones.
If I had to pick a favorite, I’d say the rest of the cast. The children involved were spectacular too, having their own sense of comedy that melded well with current technology. There were also a few nice political messages that ran throughout that address current issues, which was another pleasant surprise. What brought it all together was the importance of the glue that tied it all together with their mother. She was a remarkable woman that had more power and influence than she knew herself.
Almost Christmas isn’t for everyone, but it still has pieces that everyone can appreciate. It’s a film about loving each other and respecting people’s differences as you would want them to do for you. There are many ways to the top of the mountain, and what’s important is to respect others’ paths if there’s no destruction along the way. Deep down that’s what two sisters had to learn within the film, and when they did it was nothing short of amazing. There are a great number of scenes that will force you to laugh, because they’re genuine to everyday life. And when it’s tied all together, overall it is a fun-loving experience.