‘Almost Christmas’: Great cast home, hopelessly lame for holidays

SHARE ‘Almost Christmas’: Great cast home, hopelessly lame for holidays

Mo’Nique plays Aunt May in “Almost Christmas.” | Universal Pictures

Christmas Day in “Almost Christmas” is something of a miracle.

As in, it’s a miracle apparently nobody involved in the high-end decision-making process on this film noticed any of the glaring continuity errors or lapses in logic transpiring before us.

Example. One character is dressed in casual clothing. She is standing outside the house in which she grew up. She rushes inside for about 45 seconds — and when she returns, she has changed into a formal gown, her hairstyle has changed and she is wearing full makeup.

Another example. Someone winds up in the hospital. A few hours later, that person is home. That person should still be in the hospital.

Oh, and here’s another one. On Christmas night, a congressional candidate and his slick campaign manager meet with a bunch of shady businessmen in a hotel lounge for a power dinner. Geez, you’d think even ambitious politicos and shady businessmen would take Christmas night off!

And don’t even get me started about the afternoon Christmas dinner during which not one, but two bombshells are dropped — and the reactions around the table range from the slapstick to the overwrought to IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.

What a waste of a wonderful cast. Count Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Nicole Ari Parker, Omar Epps, Mo’Nique, J.B. Smoove, Kimberly Elise, Jessie T. Usher and Romany Malco among those unable to rescue writer-director David E. Talbert’s family comedy/drama, which contains precious few genuine laughs and even fewer legitimately earned heart-tugging moments.

This is the kind of movie where a 20-year misunderstanding could have (and would have) been cleared up with one simple conversation. This is the kind of movie where a character who has sold out catches a glimpse of a homeless family on the street and says, “I can’t do this.”

This is the kind of a movie where a major college football star says things like, “When I caught the ball …” When I caught the ball?

“Almost Christmas” is set in Birmingham, Alabama (it was filmed in Atlanta, and I don’t know why they just didn’t set it in Atlanta, because there’s nothing particularly Birmingham, Alabama, about the story or the setting), where the extended Meyers clan is gathering for the first Christmas since the death of the beloved family matriarch.

Danny Glover is the widower Walter, still unsteady after losing his wife of 45 years.

Walter’s grown children: Christian (Romany Malco), who is running for Congress; Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), a successful dentist; Rachel (Gabrielle Union), a divorced mom struggling to put herself through law school, and the tagalong, Evan (Jessie T. Usher), who we’re told is a projected Top 5 NFL draft pick.

(You’d think there’d be a lot more talk around the house about how Evan is a huge star on the verge of becoming an instant millionaire, but it doesn’t really come up.)

Nicole Ari Parker and J.B. Smoove have Significant Other roles. Mo’Nique is Walter’s sister-in-law, a backup singer for everyone from Sly and the Family Stone to the Rolling Stones. (That would seem to make her about 70, but OK.)

Oh, and there some Cute Movie Kids who take selfies and text emojis to one another and talk like Cute Movie Kids.

Just about everyone has a secret or an issue — or in some cases, a secret issue. At times “Almost Christmas” is almost nasty, e.g., the lifelong feud between sisters Cheryl and Rachel, who appear to genuinely hate each other. One of them pulls a stunt on the other that’s ugly and unforgivable.

On a few, all-too-rare occasions, comedic sparks fly. Mo’Nique has a couple of flat-out funny showcase moments. JB Smoove is too good not to find a few nuggets of comedic gold in his performance.

Danny Glover, being Danny Glover, is his usual wonderful screen presence. His portrayal of Walter is the best thing in the movie.

But geez, did they really have to crowbar in a clunky “inside joke” reference to Glover’s “Lethal Weapon” character?


Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by David E. Talbert. Rated PG-13 (for suggestive material, drug content and language). Running time: 112 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.

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