Over the past decade, no formula has been as successful and profitable as Black ensemble comedies. Whether “The Best Man,” “Love Jones,” or any of Tyler Perry’s movies, we just can’t get enough of seeing a group of some of our favorite stars together onscreen. Director Preston Whitmore II’s latest film, “This Christmas” takes a typical lump of holiday coal and turns it into shimmering Christmas joy.
Several days before Christmas in Los Angeles, family matriarch Ma Dear Whitfield (Loretta Devine) is making preparations to welcome home her children for the family’s annual holiday celebration. But this year, the celebration takes on added meaning when prodigal son, Quentin (Idris Elba) on the run from some bookies, makes his way home for the first time in four years. His return only heightens the drama swirling within this large, secretive family.
There are skeletons in the Whitfield’s family closet itchin’ to get out which make this holiday gathering more crowded than usual. Housewife Lisa (Regina King) is stuck in an unfulfilling marriage to ambitious, yet controlling husband, Malcolm (Laz Alonzo); career-minded, Kelli (Sharon Leal) who has limited interest in relationships; “Baby” (Chris Brown) who hides from the fact that he wants to sing; hot-headed Marine Claude (Columbus Short) who is acting pretty sneaky, home on leave; and young, hot Melanie (Lauren London) who comes home with her new and nervous boyfriend Devean (Keith Robinson). Did I mention Ma Dear’s secret romance with her long-time friend, Joe Black (Delroy Lindo)?
With so much going on, Whitmore does a wonderful job of keeping the action moving and entertaining. The story for the most part manages to weave in the various plots and surprises seamlessly mixing a variety of characters and their stories quite effectively.The film blends the dynamics of “Soul Food” sprinkled with a little “Why Did I Get Married?” topped off with a touch of “The Family Stone.”
While the film isn’t perfect, nor original, one can’t deny that it is highly entertaining. The holiday season is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year,” and “This Christmas” is a perfect example of a talented cast, a cute story and a universal family theme can stretch a long way. While not high art or a best film of the year nominee, “This Christmas” will surely win my award as the year’s most heart-warming story and after all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?