With a tip of his cap to Tyler Perry, director and screenwriter Preston A. Whitmore II creates a chaotic, dysfunctional holiday reunion with “This Christmas.”
Loretta Devine Plays the Matriarch of an Extended Family
Shirley Ann Whitfield (Devine), known affectionately as “Ma Dear”, has several children, but over time, the kids have left the nest to start families and careers of their own. This Christmas, however, she’d like to have the entire family gather together under one roof and Joseph Black (Delroy Lindo), her live-in boyfriend, works to help make that happen.
Oldest Son Quentin is in Trouble
Played by Idris Elba, Quentin, like his father before him, is a musician and, also like his father, Quentin starts performing on the road. Somewhere along the line, Quentin ends up owing money to some gangsters, who send a couple of thugs to Ma Dear’s house to make sure that Quentin coughs up what he owes.
Baby is the Youngest of the Whitfield Children
Michael Whitfield (Chris Brown), who everyone calls “Baby” because he’s the youngest and still lives at home, also loves music like his big brother. He has a beautiful singing voice, but he’s afraid to perform in front of Ma Dear because her husband left her to pursue his musical career.
Sistah, the Oldest Daughter, has a Cheating Husband
Called Sistah by her family, Lisa Whitfield Moore (Regina King) comes back home with Malcolme (Laz Alonso), her husband who also is cheating on her. Malcolme pressures Lisa to convince Ma Dear to sell the family’s dry cleaning business and divide the profits among the children.
Claude Whitfield is Away Without Official Leave
Claude (Columbus Short) comes back home with a couple of secrets, not the least of which is his new bride Sandy (Jessica Stroup), who he is hiding in his hotel room. To keep from disappointing his mother, however, Claude left his army base without getting an official pass.
“This Christmas” Has Way Too Many Characters
With kids, spouses and family nicknames to keep track of, the cast for “This Christmas” is almost too large for a two-hour movie. The audience practically needs a scorecard to keep all the on screen relationships straight. Still, director Preston Whitmore’s screenplay contains some razor-sharp dialogue and situations that are, for the most part, believable. Whitmore’s film does owe a lot to Tyler Perry and his Madea character, but this film does have merits of it’s own.
The Bottom Line: “This Christmas” is not a Normal Holiday Movie
“This Christmas” is an amusing, if sometimes outrageous, look at the holiday season. It’s definitely not sappy or saccharine and is a nice change of pace movie for this time of year.
“This Christmas,” which is not yet rated by MPAA, opens nationwide on Wednesday, November 21.