Review: ‘Almost Christmas’ follows holiday formula
The only surprise to be unwrapped in this holiday comedy is a winning performance by Oscar winner Mo’Nique
It’s not a lump of coal in your stocking, but “Almost Christmas” feels re-gifted from a slew of holiday movies that came before it.
It’s about a family coming together at the holidays and trying to overcome its differences. It’s one of those movies where everything goes wrong right up until it goes right, so you know someone’s going to get locked out of the house, someone’s going to fall off the roof, and, at the end, a feeling of togetherness will prevail and your heart will feel like it’s been warmed by a mug of cocoa.
At least that’s the hope. Danny Glover is the patriarch of a Birmingham, Alabama, family celebrating its first Christmas since his wife died. Besides the still-lingering grief, everyone’s got an issue to overcome: Christian (Romany Malco) is a politician who works too much; Lonnie (J.B. Smoove) is a philanderer; Evan (Jessie Usher) is addicted to painkillers; Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is emotionally walled off and refuses to communicate with her sister Cheryl (Kimberly Elise).
Writer-director David E. Talbert keeps putting the family into situations that heighten their conflicts: A contentious family dinner, a supposedly friendly game of football. Though he does let them come together during a living room dance party.
It’s as predictable as your aunt’s holiday stuffing, but the cast finds some places to open up the material. Smoove is elastic as a slick-talking ex-basketball player, and Mo’Nique, as the deceased’s sister, rides a comic vibe that has its own weather pattern.
“Almost Christmas” is strictly a formula affair, but in her most high profile role since winning an Oscar for “Precious,” Mo’Nique delivers a holiday treat.
Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, drug content and language
Running time: 112 minutes