"This Christmas" is sure to be bland

Nov. 27, 2007, midnight | By Charles Kong | 14 years, 5 months ago

Various plotlines fail to entertain

For the past several years, director Preston Whitmore has been in the dumps, especially after the scoreless production "Crossover." "This Christmas" appears to be no different—it is an ambiguous, confusing and dull movie that is as banal as the title itself.

Similar to the plotline in "The Family Stone" and "Home for the Holidays," the story in "This Christmas" surrounds the chaotic reunion of an extended family (The Whitfields) as they celebrate Christmas together and bring home much more than just their share of presents.

The family starts and ends with matriarch Ma'Dere (Loretta Devine) who is hesitant to permanently settle down with her long-term boyfriend Thomas (Delroy Lindo). There's the baby of the family, Michael (Chris Brown), who pursues a singing career in secret. The Marine-gone-AWOL-son Claude (Columbus Short) who has secretly married a white woman and the jazz saxophonist Quentin (Idris Elba) while on the run from bookies whom he owes $25,000 also play roles. And next there's Lisa, the wife (Regina King) who's husband is cheating on her—and the list never ends.

The first third of the film is a tortuous mess. These equally troubled characters are blasted into the storyline in such a rapid manner that it's impossible for the audience to focus on the situation of one character before being forced to switch to that of the next. To make matters worse, nicknames are inserted here and there. The result is a Thanksgiving casserole gone haywire. Nonetheless, Whitmore manages to tie all these stale subplots together by the end of the movie.

"This Christmas" is as predictable as all other holiday films. During the almost two hours it takes to arrive at a bunch of inevitable warm-hearted happy endings for each character, the movie goes through almost no twists or turns. The situations each family member faces are so unnatural, occurrences become formulaic and forced.

But what "This Christmas" lacks in plot, it makes up for in acting. Devine and Lindo match up perfectly as two performers who are able to express parental love and sincere concern for each of their children. Their emotions are pure and their actions are convincing.

The sibling rivalry between Kelli and Lisa is depicted beautifully by Sharon Leal and King. Leal's stuck-up and selfish portrayal clashes sharply with King's voluptuous, overly-defensive attitude, resulting in a dirty catfight out in the rain. Whitmore's script for these two parts is well-written, giving each hilarious lines pointed at each other's weak points.

A variety of masculine risk-takers make up the male side of the Whitfield family. Elba is extremely confrontational, yet gives a sense of comedy to the audience with his stoic expression. Short's actions are brash and spontaneous, yet the audience still respects him for always standing up for what he believes is right. And of course Brown, despite his his immature, silly demeanor, shows his determination and passion for music at the same time. Brown's amazing voice and mesmerizing performance at an open-mike club with "Try a Little Tenderness" is a delight to watch. Brown creates a dual image that seems to accurately represent today's teenagers.

But in spite of the astounding performances from the actors, without a solid, original plot "This Christmas" still lacks substance. It may fare better as a holiday movie made for television at home, with the basic guidelines: introduce the characters, present their distressing situations and conclude with an easy, predictable but happy resolution with light-hearted singing and warm-spirited bonding.

"This Christmas" is rated PG-13 for comic sexual content and some violence. It is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Charles Kong. Charles Kong loves to play tennis. Actually, he likes to play sports in general. He tries not to procrastinate, but his success rate varies. He likes listening to music and using the computer, and loves Jackie Chan movies. He is super excited for Chips, even … More »

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