Victoria Stuewe ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Movies Editor
As the end of the year is approaching, new holiday movies are releasing, and one of the first to do so this year is Almost Christmas. These films are meant to eventually become one of the essentials in everybody’s coveted Christmas movie collection, but not all succeed in spreading the holiday spirit.
Almost Christmas follows the Meyers family during the first Christmas season after the death of their mother, Grace (Rachel Kylian). Unfortunately, during the year after her passing, the family starts to break apart. Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) begin a sister rivalry, the youngest brother, Evan (Jessie Usher), is a football star and secretly begins to take prescription drugs, and Christian (Romany Malco) decides to run for Congress, taking much-needed time away from his family. Meanwhile, their father, Walter (Danny Glover), is left alone and is struggling with the idea of life after his wife’s death, all while deciding whether to sell the beloved Meyers home.
Despite all of this, Walter still invites all of the siblings to Christmas dinner, a beloved tradition in the family. He also invites his sister-in-law, Aunt May (Mo’Nique), who means well, but ultimately causes things to go even worse at times. Once happy and loving, the Meyers family is now completely dysfunctional and chaotic. Even though Walter tries to keep the family calm and peaceful during the holiday season, chaos ensues as multiple obstacles and fights ensue between the siblings.
Because of how specific Almost Christmas’s genre is – a holiday-specific, dysfunctional family get-together, comedy-drama – there is not a lot of substance and the plot is painfully simple. It begs the question: “Can this family ever get along?” The answer, however, is obvious. From the start of the film, it hints to the audience exactly how the film will play out, which doesn’t give a lot of room for surprise or suspense for what is to come.
As a whole, Almost Christmas has too many ideas, all of which are predictable and clichéd. There are, more or less, ten different conflicts working throughout this whole film; some get slightly resolved, but most of them have no resolution whatsoever. With so many directions that this film is taking, it made the plot feel convoluted and unfinished. Ultimately, it was unsatisfying to see how some characters never really have a chance to finish their stories and were instead left behind in a script that had to quickly wrap up.
Although the jokes might please some, the film’s humor can be weak. Granted, Aunt May does pull a few one-liners that produce laughs, but that doesn’t compare to how many attempted punchlines there are in the film. Many of the poorly executed jokes come from Cheryl’s husband, Lonnie (J.B. Smoove), who can be too uncomfortable to watch. With many fast pitched gags and prolonged deliveries, the writing was sometimes trite and unoriginal.
It’s important to point out that possibly the most significant plot device is the mother’s death. But, instead of always using it in a considerate and meaningful fashion, it is mentioned in what seems like every scene, which downplayed the impact of her passing considerably. It acts as a crutch throughout the film, as it is used to stop fights, be sentimental, and make a scene suddenly emotional. While it is understandable that her death made a deep impact in every character’s life, it’s still puzzling as to why they feel the need to bring her up in every conversation, even in ones that don’t necessarily pertain to her.
Still, the film’s best quality was the relationship between Walter and his Grace. The scenes that allude to their relationship are really the most genuine and loving, and she wasn’t in any of them. It’s obvious through Glover’s performance the amount of respect that he had for her, and it allows the audience to take a breath from all of the chaos that the siblings had created. While it is predictable what he is going to do in the movie, it still brought a sort of hope to see his dedication to her in that way rather than depicting Walter as a man who was completely broken. It also should be mentioned that the strongest performances came out of a conversation between Glover and Mo’Nique’s characters, where they discussed Walter’s marriage and his “what next” after his wife’s death.
Altogether, it was disappointing that even though Almost Christmas had the chance to break the cookie-cutter mold of its genre, it didn’t. From the beginning, it is apparent that this is just like any other dysfunctional family holiday movie, but just more crowded and clichéd. The sad thing is, it isn’t innovative enough to be called a breakthrough and it also isn’t really funny enough to call it a great comedy. Overall, Almost Christmas missed the mark on becoming a potential holiday classic.
Overall Grade: C-
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