This Christmas there's no place like family. For the first time in years, all the Whitfield kids have come home for the holiday with Ma'Dere and her boyfriend. And each has brought plenty of baggage along with them. As the lights
are hung and the tree is trimmed, secrets are revealed and ties are tested.
But as their lives are converge again, they join together to rediscover and celebrate the wonderful gift of family.
In case one forgets, here’s another movie to remind you that family is and always will be the heart of the Christmas season. Not again, you may exclaim, can’t Hollywood break out of the rut of family-get-together movies tailored to spread the Yuletide cheer? Apparently not by the looks of it- they just keep increasing the size of these families.
Take the Whitfield family here for instance. At the head of the family is Ma’Dere (Loretta Devine), still occasionally ruminating over her saxophone-playing husband who has gone off to pursue his career and left his family behind. Then there’s Ma’Dere’s children, all six of them, each with their own secrets that will inevitably threaten to jeopardize the family’s Christmas celebration. Not to mention the eldest Whitfield child’s philandering husband, the second eldest’s fireman love interest.
You get the picture. When you get so many different people living their own lives suddenly coming together even for a brief holiday, it’s going to be one eventful family reunion. And writer-director Preston A Whitmore II’s African American Christmas drama wants to impress you that amidst it all, family is the one thing you’re better off living with, than living without.
But hey, you know what, it actually works! Cynics will always be quick to dismiss such movies but if you allow yourself to believe in the setup, you’ll find yourself subscribing to its holiday message quite willingly. That’s because despite some familiar contrivances, there is plenty of heart in This Christmas thanks to an excellent ensemble cast.
Usually cast in supporting roles, veteran Loretta Devine shows she’s got what it takes to anchor a fine leading role. As matriarch of the Whitfield family, she evokes great empathy through her constant struggle to keep the family together. The rest of the cast including Delroy Lindo, Regina King and Idris Elba share great chemistry with each other, be it whether they are laughing together or fighting amongst one another. Yes, they make the Whitfields feel like a real family.
Surprisingly, the movie does not buckle under its multitude of characters. Writer-director Whitmore II displays a knack for giving each character enough story and screen time to develop itself, as well as to juggle the ebb and flow of the various crises the Whitfields are facing.
To top it with, This Christmas has one of the nicest soundtracks of similarly-themed holiday movies. Combining classic Christmas carols, as well as contemporary tunes (including its theme song by singer Chris Brown who also stars in the movie), the music complements both the quieter and more raucous moments in the movie perfectly.
Indeed This Christmas comes as a rare holiday treat that will surely leave a smile on your face. With a well written script, assured direction, great cast, and infectious soundtrack, This Christmas will certainly remain relevant as a great holiday movie every Christmas.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Making This Christmas Special Featurette: Basically the cast complementing one another and talking about the house as a 'central character' in the movie.
Cast Commentary with Regina King, Sharon Leal and Lauren London: Surprisingly quite a tepid affair given the apparent on-screen chemistry among the cast
Deleted and Extended Scenes: Just one of each. Suffice to say it’s clear why the deleted one was well cut out and the extended one was cut short.
Nice visual transfer. But it is the Dolby 5.1 audio that truly is a treat, especially with the chock full of wonderful Christmas tunes soundtrack.
by Gabriel Chong