As usual, a group of middle-upper-crust Black folk come together for the holidays and so begins the drama.
Review (with Spoilers)
Whether you saw the trailer or the clips released, especially the ones featuring Mo’Nique, you have to admit this seemed like something to see. But the question is, will this be added to the likes of The Preacher’s Wife, The Best Man Holiday or even A Diva’s Christmas or just be another movie which comes and goes and may make you laugh, but doesn’t leave a lasting effect.
Characters & Story
Walter (Danny Glover)
For a lot of husbands, the science saying men usually die before women is some solace. But when science isn’t right it makes things seem a bit unnatural. So with Walter’s wife Grace (?) gone, and him having this empty house, life is strange. For even with 4 kids ranging from their 20s to maybe early 40s, they don’t seem to regularly visit.
However, now it is Christmas, Grace’s favorite holiday, and to honor her and be with their dad, his kids, grandkids, and his kid’s spouses come to Alabama to spend 5 days with each other. Heck, even their Aunt May (Mo’Nique) joins in the festivities. But while everyone may be grown, it seems they haven’t matured past their childhood strifes.
Cheryl (Kimberly Elise)
A dentist with a fool for a husband named Lonnie (J.B. Smoove). No kids, just her career and her man, and honestly who knows what she sees in him. But, as the trailer shows, he has been seeing a lot of a woman whose name is not Cheryl.
However, what the trailer doesn’t show is the tumultuous relationship between Cheryl & Rachel. A relationship so toxic that what comes out of both of their mouths are worth starting a fight.
Rachel (Gabrielle Union)
She don’t need no man, don’t want no man, all she wants to do is figure out what she is going to do with her life and how she is going to keep a roof over Niya (Nadej K. Bailey), her daughter’s, head. But then Malachi (Omar Epps), her best friend in high school, tries to return to being an active part in her life.
Christian (Romany Malco)
While the youngest son, Evan (Jessie Usher) is a football star in the making, Christian is a potential politician. One who is trying to run a clean campaign, but good intentions need to be backed by money. So with his campaign manager Mr. Brooks (John Michael Higgins), pushing for a shady company to get involved with the campaign, Walter has to remind his son about his family’s history and what will happen to a big piece of it if he gets involved with this group.
Funny As Hell
After Mo’Nique warms up, she pretty much murders this movie. I mean, she goes well beyond being a comic relief and makes it so this film can’t be considered a dramaedy but simply a comedy with dramatic elements. She isn’t alone, though! J.B. Smoove has a nice bit of back and forth with her and Jessie Usher gets the occasional chance to shine. But the big surprise to me was the children. Nadej Bailey and Alkoya Brunson (who plays Camerion – Christian’s son) are on the level of the kids on Black-ish. There is this innocence yet know it all attitude, mixed in with this cell-phone obsessed culture and it just works. To the point where, if I did count how many times I laughed, as a collective they might have given Mo’Nique a run for her money.
A Sense of Family
While a lot of the drama takes familiar forms, it is hard to argue that these characters don’t seem like family. For example, I found myself, when it came to Christian and Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), wondering who was the biological child. Then when it came to Rachel and Cheryl’s sibling issues, while it was a bit nastier than I think was necessary, damn if I couldn’t imagine two people who have dogged each other’s lives for years talking to one another like that.
But what essentially makes this vibe of family seem real is Grace. Through remembering what she meant to each and every member of that family, so we see what not only got them to Walter’s house but perhaps what each of them wanted in life. Hence the varying states of his kids’ relationships.
What About Dad?
I found it very weird, with respect to Grace, that it seemed like Walter’s place in his kids’ lives didn’t have the same influence. You don’t hear Evan talking about how his dad would through the ball with him, there isn’t anyone speaking on how his hard work inspired them, or anything which makes it seem like they had a close relationship with him as much as they did the mom. Something which I found sort of odd.
Between trying to understand what Cheryl saw in Lonnie, who is Sonya without Christian, to how Cheryl and Rachel bury the hatchet after Rachel embarrasses Cheryl in front of the whole family, I must admit the movie quickly wrapping up storylines got me frustrated.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
If I based my opinion on laughs alone, my review would have been positive. However, once I really thought about who was involved with this movie and what they are capable of, I began to feel like I should have not only expected more but gotten more. For while the ghost of grace haunts the film, the jokes are too strong and come too often to really let the feeling of someone losing their mom or wife sink and effect you. Thus making this film like most comedies. It is good for a one time view and for the laughs you’ll get, but afterwards it loses any sort of replay value for it lacks depth.