out of Five
Running time: 119
Watchable ensemble drama with a strong cast and an above average script, though it will sorely test your patience for group dance scenes.
What's it all about?
Loretta Devine stars as L.A matriarch Shirley "Ma' Dere" Whitfield, whose three sons and three daughters descend on the family home for the first time in four years during the Christmas holidays. Naturally, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a spot of familial tension and a host of secrets being revealed.
The chief source of tension is that oldest sister Lisa (Regina King) wants to persuade the family to sell Ma' Dere's dry cleaning business so that her cheating husband (Laz Alonso) can use the capital. However, there are several other secrets bubbling away, such as: the fact that Ma' Dere's boyfriend (Delroy Lindo) has moved in with her; the fact that eldest son Quentin (Idris Elba) is on the run from two loan sharks; and the fact that middle son Claude (Columbus Short) is AWOL from the Marines and is hiding something even bigger.
The performances are superb, particularly Regina King, the always-excellent Delroy Lindo and London's own Idris Elba (aka Stringer Bell in The Wire), who gets a nifty little fight sequence right at the beginning. Similarly, Chris Brown and Lauren London
(Entourage) deliver extremely likeable performances as the two youngest kids.
Whitmore's direction ensures that the dialogue flows naturally and gives each character their chance to shine. There are some excellent scenes, including one or two surprises, such as a scene involving baby oil and a belt that's both hilarious and slightly shocking at the same time.
The films biggest problem is that there are maybe too many characters to really engage with any of them on an emotional level. Similarly, it includes an excruciating group dance sequence that goes on for literally five minutes (and is then reprised before the end credits).
In short, This Christmas is an entirely watchable family drama with likeable characters and strong performances, though you are well advised to leave before the dancing starts.
This Christmas (12A)