Film Review: ALMOST CHRISTMAS (USA 2016)

almost_christmas_movie_poster.jpgDirector: David E. Talbert
Writer: David E. Talbert
Stars: Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover, JB Smoove, Mo’Nique, Gabrielle Union.

This is the time of the year that Hollywood dishes out their first Christmas films. The subject is often a family set around the big family Christmas dinner. It is as if Thanksgiving does not provide audiences with a similar film already. So as early as the first week of November ALMOST CHRISTMAS (not to be confused with Paul Morrison’s film ALL IS BRIGHT that was originally titled ALMOST CHRISTMAS) debuts with all its sweet sugar coating and dabbed with cliches and predictability.

This time around, it is an African American family Christmas. The family patriarch Walter (Danny Glover) is now a widower 10 months after the passing on of his perfect wife. His five children, three daughters and two sons with an assortment of tag-alongs that include wives and husbands, in-laws and grandchildren arrive for the big dinner. There is no turkey in this dinner.

The premise is the patriarch praying for his family to get along. If they can honour that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle. And somewhat of a miracle that a film with this well-worn plot would turn out any good.

As expected in Christmas movies of this sort, the comedic set-ups will include: setting up of the outdoor Christmas decorations, often on a roof with lots of electric lights that will blow up; quarrelling siblings with nasty exchanges but all will be forgotten and forgiven as the season of good cheer arrives; cute kids whose cuteness will overstay their welcome some silly surprise that will be sprung on the unsuspecting family members (selling of the family house in this case) silly games that the family members will play (football in this one) ALMOST CHRISTMAS begins with the film settling on the protagonist, Walter, before any guests arrive. Auntie May (Mo‘Nique) is the first one to arrive followed by the children, one by one. There are quite many and it takes the audience a while to figure out who is who. Director Talbert does a good job here and everyone becomes a familiar face half way through the film.

The film is titled from ‘6 days till Christmas’, ‘5 days till Christmas’ till ‘Christmas Day’. This is unfortunate as the film really drags on. When the title ‘3 Days till Christmas appear’, the audience can only shrug that there are still 3 days and 3 film segments to go.

Talbert’s film begins on quite a serious note with Walter’s pouting, trying to bake a sweet potato pie his wife made. The serious note is maintained towards this basic comedy which is not all too funny. The comedic set-ups are already tired formulas tried out once and again in other similar films.

There are two lively musical numbers – the better one being in church, where the entire congregation breaks out into a song and chant. If only churches were this lively! The other is when Aunt May leads the family in an impromptu dance, when all the family members do their thing.

ALMOST CHRISTMAS appears to have satisfied the audience at the promo screening. The film generated a few laughs and also a few tears, but this reviewer did not feel much festive spirit in this movie.


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