A holiday melodrama suffering from severe bloat, This Christmas concerns the reunion of the Whitfield family, a clan dealing with so many dilemmas that it’s a wonder they ever get to sit down for Christmas dinner. They do, of course, and Preston A. Whitmore II’s film is best when it focuses on the spirituality of saying pre-meal grace and the ensuing, chatter-filled feasts, instances that exude a genuineness that’s otherwise sorely lacking from this overstuffed grab bag of conflicts and romantic affairs. A soldier (Columbus Short) gone AWOL, a jazz saxophonist (Idris Elba) on the run from bookies, a wife (Regina King) dealing with a cheating husband (Laz Alonso), a young man (Chris Brown) yearning to fulfill his dream of being a singer, and a matriarch (Loretta Devine) struggling to keep her family and long-term boyfriend (Delroy Lindo) happy are just a few of the plotlines jammed into this tale’s two-hour runtime. Whitmore spends virtually every available second entangling his pleasant but rather clichéd characters in—and then extricating them from—quandaries. And the film would have been better served with fewer narrative threads and far more inventiveness. This is most readily apparent in the case of Lisa (King) and Malcolme (Alonso), whose marital problems are both broadly conceived and then resolved via some easy Angela Bassett/Waiting to Exhale retribution. Yet it generally applies to the amiable proceedings as a whole, since the writer-director is ultimately more interested in dishing out unadventurous, heartwarming mush than anything that might qualify as challenging, unexpected, or even boisterous. Whitmore guides his conventional material with a competent hand, and there’s nothing disagreeable about his cast’s uniformly sturdy turns, but with so few surprises, This Christmas eventually winds up feeling like a lot of past ones.
- Preston A. Whitmore II
- Preston A. Whitmore II
- Laz Alonso, Chris Brown, Loretta Devine, Idris Elba, Regina King, Sharon Leal, Delroy Lindo, Lauren London, Mekhi Phifer, Keith Robinson, Columbus Short
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