This Christmas

Film
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars
Everyone brings something to the party as Loretta Devine’s LA matriarch Ma’Dere welcomes her clan for the holidays. Eldest daughter Lisa (Regina King) is concealing a faltering marriage, sibling Kelli (Sharon Leal) is lonely in her high-powered advertising job, while soldier son Claude (Columbus Short) has gone AWOL to make a surprise announcement, and errant older brother Quentin (Idris Elba) arrives with two bookies’ henchmen in tow. Since the hostess herself is trying to hide that she’s been living with church worker Joe (Delroy Lindo), the plot’s got no shortage of personal crises to get through, and the next couple of hours is spent ticking them off in strict adherence to soap opera predictability. That said, the actors are terrific, notably ever-solid Lindo, irrepressible King, and a star-making turn from Chris Brown as the conflicted teen with a secret vocal talent, while a top soundtrack selection of seasonal soul and funk classics proves a major asset. This is good-natured, determinedly aspirational African-American entertainment, but did it have to be quite so heavy on the clichés?

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