Like sock-it-to-me cake ruined by too much sugar, This Christmas is cloying empty calories. But then again, the film must follow a much larger recipe, one that keeps the wheels of holiday commerce greased. With all apologies to Tolstoy, happy families are all alike—and so are the plots of yuletide movies about big broods.
Several alums from Dreamgirls and Stomp the Yard make up the cast, including R&B star Chris Brown from the latter, here as the youngest member of the Whitfield clan—the one who sings two songs, which just may remind viewers that Brown’s second album came out two weeks ago. Presiding over the family is Loretta Devine as Ma Dear, ecstatic that her sax-playing eldest son (Elba) has returned to Los Angeles for the first time in four years, joining his five siblings. Two sisters wrestle in the rain; the matriarch is confronted; a secret marriage is revealed. But we all know how everything will end. What no one could have anticipated, however, is the interminable second of two Soul Train lines, in which the actors perform as “themselves”—as if writer-director Preston A. Whitmore II had to convince us that much harder how much fun movies like this are.
Cast and crew