Well, it’s almost Thanksgiving, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for a couple Christmas movies! David E. Talbert’s Almost Christmas is far from the worst holiday movie ever made. The film has its heart in the right place and even has a few genuinely warm scenes. If that’s all you’re looking for, the film will get the job done. If you’re looking for a Christmas movie that’s consistently funny, original, and keeps the audience emotionally invested, though, there are far superior options available.
If you’re looking for a Christmas movie that’s consistently funny, original, and keeps the audience emotionally invested, though, there are far superior options available.
Danny Glover stars as Walter, a recently widowed father of four who has the whole family over for Christmas. Romany Malco is his oldest son, Christian, a politician who spends too much time working and not enough with his family. Jessie Usher is his youngest son, Evan, a rising football star addicted to painkillers. Gabrielle Union is his youngest daughter, Rachel, a single mother trying to put herself through law school while also having a fling with an old boyfriend (Omar Epps). Rounding out the immediate family is Kimberly Elise as his oldest daughter, Cheryl. She’s married to J. B. Smoove’s Lonnie, a former basketball player with a cheating heart. There’s also Mo’Nique as the sassy Aunt May. Of course if this were a Tyler Perry movie, Madea probably would’ve filled this role.
From the minute all of these characters walk on screen, you can pretty much predict how their character arks will play out. It doesn’t help that this family has one too many members, although the actors are universally good. Almost Christmas could’ve made up for its predictability if the screenplay was at least funny. However, the comedy bits are all too familiar. Naturally, there’s lots of slapstick involving putting up the Christmas decorations, a football game, cooking dinner, and so on. There’s even time for a dance sequence because… that’s just what people do in family reunion movies.
That’s the biggest problem with this film. It basically just goes through a checklist without offering anything new. If you’ve seen The Family Stone or Love the Coopers, you’ve seen Almost Christmas. All three of these films try to recreate the magic of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which started this trend. The same can be said about all the family road trip movies that keep trying to recreate the original Vacation. But those two John Hughes classics had unique setups, expected payoffs, and unforgettable one-liners, all of which are missing here.
If you’ve seen The Family Stone or Love the Coopers, you’ve seen Almost Christmas.
With that said, Almost Christmas isn’t without its laughs. There’s a particularly uproarious dinner scene where a character’s secret is revealed and all hell breaks loose. The film occasionally even does a decent job at addressing how hectic Christmas can be, especially with such a big family. It mostly involves lots of yelling and arguing, but there are also quiet moments that compensate for all the chaos. In Almost Christmas, we do get a couple tender scenes that almost make up for its shortcomings. When looking at the big picture, however, you’ll likely wish you spent the holidays someplace else.