Movie Reviews: This Christmas




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     Screen Gems
     Gathering to celebrate Christmas together for the first time in four years, the Whitfield clan uses the opportunity to finally share their true feelings about one another.
     Loretta Devine, Delroy Lindo, Mekhi Phifer,  Regina King, Sharon Leal, Idris Elba, Chris Brown, Lauren London, Columbus Short and Laz Alonso
Bottom Line:

Samantha Ofole-Prince

There’s no such thing as the perfect family and no such thing as the perfect holiday -- that’s the premise of this genial ensemble as six siblings return home for their first family reunion in four years.

Devine, in the all too familiar matriarchal role plays Ma’ Dere, a hard working and spiritual disciplinary  who is looking forward to having her six kids back home for the Christmas festivities. Naturally, things never go quite as planned as each sibling arrives with a case load of secrets, lies and drama. A collection of amiable characters: Baby (Brown), the only child still living at home is secretly nursing a burning desire to launch a singing career whilst his brother Claude (Short), an active duty Marine is AWOL having taken his absence without consent.  Lisa (King) has a cheating husband whose infidelities she must confront and Quentin (Elba) is a saxophone player on the run from gambling debts. As the flick progresses more secrets and lies are revealed and old rivalries are hashed out, but by the end, love conquers all as the quarrelsome clan put aside their differences to celebrate Christmas soul food style. “It’s a universal story,” says producer Will Packer (“Stomp the Yard”) who reunites with Short and Brown in this seasonal family flick.  “There’s nothing uniquely African-American about it. It’s a story about a mother who raises six kids who leave the nest, but come back together as a family  and it’s through their hope, faith and strength of their family that they persevere through some real challenges.”

With splashes of humor and a slice of action, its “Soul Food” meets “Crooklyn” at Christmas. There are several memorable scenes in this infectious comedy including a scene when Lisa confronts her cheating husband Malcolm (Alonso) about his extra marital affair whilst he is taking a shower splashing baby oil over the bathroom floor to ensure she gets the last word. King also gets to bare some flesh with a small seduction scene and credits her toned physique to a lot of hiking. “I do a little bit of cardio but mainly hike a lot with my dog. I didn’t realize how well it was keeping me in shape until I was in shape,” she says.

Brown, in his second movie role has some rather dramatic scenes as well as two musical performances and although he claims he was nervous received several accolades and admiration from all his cast members for his portrayal of Baby. “I was definitely nervous especially with the A-list of actors and actresses in this movie and I wasn’t sure if I would  be able to pull it off, but just sucked it up and went into it,” says Brown who was previously seen in “Stomp The Yard.”

Safe, simple and predictable with no specific plot to drive things along, what saves “This Christmas” is the genuine chemistry amongst its A list stars. “The chemistry came naturally,” claims London who credits Short with her decision to join the cast. “I am friends with Columbus and when he called me and told me about it and who was in it I told him to sign me up! This movie was special with the cast and everything and whenever we hit the set together we always had fun.”



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