Time Out says
An extended family comes together through tears and laughs in a sturdy new addition to the yuletide canon.
Since Mo’Nique threw that TV set down the stairs in Precious, it’s been a relatively quiet seven years for her. But the way she sweeps into Almost Christmas—a mostly delightful domestic comedy suffused with real family warmth—you’d think she never left the spotlight. Playing a successful back-up singer intent on bringing cheer (not to mention discipline and fear) to a clan in desperate need of it, the Oscar winner supercharges what might have been a generic affair into rare realms of excitement.
The comfortably upper-middle-class Meyers have recently lost their matriarch, as well as her prized box of recipes. Even as they gather for a family Christmas in their Alabama home, sadness tinges every exchange. But regardless, they show up with their luggage and half-buried tensions: Two competitive adult sisters, Rachel and Cheryl (Gabrielle Union and Kimberly Elise), can barely speak to each other. Rising political star Christian (Romany Malco) can’t escape his chattering cell phone. And the baby of the clan, college football player Evan (Jesse T. Usher), quietly nurses an addiction to pain pills, administered to block out the pain of motherly loss.
But it’s Danny Glover as the recently widowed Walter who anchors Almost Christmas in a regal sense of resiliency. The movie takes a few calamitous turns at its climax, dangerously approaching broad slapstick and villainizing a character we’ve come to love. But mainly, it’s a fun and boisterous countdown to the big meal. Paradoxically, the moments that stick with you are the film’s quietest: Walter improvises his way through baking a pie, the scents coaxing out a wide smile on his face. And when that dessert is finally sampled, the memories that come flooding back require no words.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
Cast and crew