Almost Christmas

(2016)

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Title:
Almost Christmas
Release Date:
11th November 2016
Runtime:
112 min
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Genres:
Directors:
David E. Talbert
Writers:
David E. Talbert
Languages:
N/A
Stream Quality:
1080p / 720p / 480p

Storyline

An dysfunctional family gathers together for their first Christmas since their mom died.

Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 50%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience 77%
IMDb Rating 6.4

Casts

Danny Glover as Walter
Kimberly Elise as Cheryl
Mo'Nique as Aunt May
Omar Epps as Malachi
Romany Malco as Christian

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by RforFilm 18th November, 2016

Almost Christmas is inoffensive and got some laughs out, but not enough to make it a holiday tradition

We're only a week away from Thanksgiving, and yet most people seem to be planning their holiday season before they even think about turkey. While I wish that the November holiday got a little more attention, who can blame people from wanting to bring in the magic of the Christmas season? Our world is now dazzled in bright lights, red and green colors all over, and a chance to better relationships. Something about life seems warmer whether were selecting a tree or the living room, lighting a new candle for Chanukah, or simply wishing someone a better new year. For a lot of people, the holidays mean having to visit family. I think it's safe to say that no matter who we love, there is at least one person in your family that you'd rather not speak to on a daily basis. So why do we put a lot of focus on our family gatherings if we know that things won't change? I think it's a matter of both keeping tradition, but of also gratefulness. The odd feeling with family is at least some feeling as we could be in a position without any loved ones (like how some people are unfortunately in that position). One family in Almost Christmas deals with a father trying to bring his kids together without drama. In Atlanta, Georgia, the Meyers family seems to be a nice crew of people to be with around the holidays. The patriarch, Walter (played by Danny Glover) is a retried mechanic who has let his wife Grace handle the majority of the meal planning while letting their four children run amok. Tragically, Grace dies from an unspecified heart condition, making Walter question just how he can handle his old home and keeping his adult children together. First to arrive is his eldest daughter Charyl (played by Kimberly Elise) who is a dentist and has brought her husband former basketball star Lonnie (played by J.B. Smoove) and their daughter. Next is eldest son Malachi (played by Romany Malco) who is trying to spend time with his family while running for congress. Then we have youngest daughter Cheryl (played by Kimberly Elise), whose seems to be in between jobs while raining her daughter. Finally we have youngest son Evan (played by Jessie Usher) who is a football star at his college. Oh, and Grace's sister aunt May (played by Mo'Nique) Can Walter manage to keep the family at peace in his first Christmas without his wife? The trouble with trying to get out a good Christmas movie (and I LOVE Christmas films) is all about creating realistic conflict that we can relate to and why the holidays are a good time to resolve them. Almost Christmas plays off like a lot of those television movies on Hallmark, which usually means that their never great. This is defiantly no Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, or Elf, but this is far from even the worst. The movie has its moments where it's drama seems genuine, especially whenever it focuses on Danny Glover and his children. While I'd like to follow Glover, the rest of the family doesn't have much interesting. I don't blame it on the actors, but the script gives them cliche moments like the cheating husband, the father that works too hard, or the grief of loosing a mother. I don't have a problem with any of this, but Almost Christmas doesn't find any new ways to tell that story. As I said, actors like Danny Glover, Mo'Nique, and J.B. Smoove did get a laugh out of me and are enough to keep the movie going when it needs to. I'll give this five sweet potato pies out of ten. At it's worst, its boring. But at it's best, it's inoffensive. As far as Christmas movies goes, I could easily see this playing on a Sunday afternoon on Hallmark or TNT. Those that aren't bothered by tired story elements will probably find this one passable. I doubt I'll spend more time with the Meyers family, but don't see any reason for other people to join them.

Reviewed by Edgar Allan Pooh 14th November, 2016

ALMOST CHR!STMAS is a sweet treat to give Blacks a foretaste of their Feast to Come . . .

. . . in Leader Trump's America. I've made Pre-Election treks through the decayed neighborhoods of Baltimore, Camden, Detroit, and Flint, finding much if not most of these representative U.S. Urban Areas to be "horrible disaster zones of total destruction," to quote President-Elect Trump. But NOW it's ALMOST CHR!STMAS, and viewers can savor the future of Inner-City America under Trump by seeing this film. There's not a trace to be seen here of the U.S. Urban malaise, stagnation, decline, and fall foisted off upon the Peoples of the Ghettos by failed architect Obama. With Leader Trump in the White House, Black Lives WILL matter, ALMOST CHR!STMAS documents. If a Black male doesn't own six auto shops and a huge house like Danny Glover's "Walter Meyers," he'll be an ex-NBA star like his son-in-law Lonnie, or a future NFL stand-out like his son Evan. For those guys who do not feel like playing games, there will be a fast track to the White House, as son Christian is said to be on here. With Trump's Wage Equality, Black Women can settle in as back-up singers, touring the World while sporting high-end Designer Fashions, as does Aunt Mae. Even stay-at-home moms such as Cheryl will think nothing of writing $20,000 Christmas gift checks. When sister Rachel's car breaks down in Trump World, she'll have the security of knowing that there's always an 80-foot black stretch limo at her disposal, too.

Reviewed by Dave McClain ([email protected]) 12th November, 2016

Ah, the holidays. It's a chance for families and friends to get together in complete peace and harmony. Pffft! If only! It's a wonderful thing when people come together to celebrate holidays and other family-centric moments, but they rarely go according to plan – or as smoothly as most of us wish they would. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Eid, Festivus, the Winter Solstice or any other gathering with loved ones, you're probably familiar with the problem. You get together people who love each other, but rarely see each other outside of holidays, weddings and funerals and some people pick up right where they last left off – with annoying habits, strong differences of opinion and old grudges that should've been dealt with or dropped long ago in the interest of family harmony. This scenario is the foundation of many a holiday comedy, including "Almost Christmas" (PG-13, 1:52). Walter Meyers (Danny Glover) is having a very tough time. The mother of his children and the love of his life died suddenly some months ago and he's now facing his first Christmas without her. He has also secretly made the difficult decision to sell the family home, a house that has become a place of sadness for him since his dear wife's passing. Walter is also struggling with trying to duplicate his wife's famous sweet potato pie for the holidays. He invites his four adult children and their families to spend Christmas together in that house (one last time), despite the problems that he knows they have getting along. As with all families, there are a lot of differences within the Meyers family – and a lot of history – some positive and some… challenging. Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is a single mom who's very independent (almost pathologically so) who aspires to be a lawyer, but feels stuck in her job as a waitress. Rachel's lack of actual accomplishments brings judgment from her older sister, Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), who is a dentist. But Cheryl has problems of her own, mostly because of Lonnie (J. B. Smoove), her ex-athlete husband who constantly talks about his glory days, often to pretty young women who are not his wife. Walter also has two sons who are at very different places in their own lives. Christian (Romany Malco) and his wife, Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), have their hands full with two precocious children. Christian is also running for Congress and is so focused on his campaign that he brings his campaign manager (John Michael Higgins) with his family for the holidays. The youngest of Walter's kids, Evan (Jessie T. Usher) is a college football player with lots of potential – if he can recover from a shoulder injury, and stop taking his pain killers, and get past his mother's death, which seems to be affecting him more than his siblings. Not only are all these related (but very different) people coming together for Christmas, they're all staying in the family home for the days leading up to the holiday. Adding to the… um, festivities are Walter's loving but loud and opinionated sister-in-law, career back-up singer Aunt May (Mo'Nique), Evan's best friend, Eric (DC Young Fly), who has "a thing" for Aunt May, next-door neighbor Malachi (Omar Epps), against whom Rachel is nursing a very old grudge, and a local grocery store cashier named Jasmine (Keri Hilson) who has what turns out to be an unfortunate connection with two members of the extended Meyers family. There's plenty for this collection of characters to try to work through during these five days – without killing each other in the process. It's a good thing that it is almost Christmas. "Almost Christmas" is one of the best holiday family comedies I've seen. Its plot calls to mind the fun of 1989's "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". That film may have more laughs, but this one has more heart. Both have outrageous moments – and moments to make you chuckle – and smile. This ensemble is terrific (especially Glover, in one of his best recent roles) and each actor has a lot to do, with good character development and backstories that are engaging and come together wonderfully. "Almost Christmas" isn't especially original, is otherwise almost perfect. "A-"

Reviewed by James Profetto 11th November, 2016

It ends on a feel-good note and is tolerable, but it just doesn't bring enough to the table to break out of its generic shell.

For the record, I love Thanksgiving and am not a fan of putting up Christmas trees this early, but I can appreciate a feel-good holiday film anytime of the year. Unfortunately for director David E. Talbert, this delivered few laughs and some grunts and sighs. It's to be expected, though, as these sorts of films make their rounds ad nauseam during the holidays. Almost Christmas brings together a recognizable cast, which includes Danny Glover, Mo'Nique and Gabrielle Union, that surely makes the characters more appealing to moviegoers. The premise for this film surrounds a family reunion during Christmas in Birmingham, Alabama, months after Walter's (Glover) wife, Grace, dies. The once- functional family struggles to get along due to implicit and explicit frustrations among one another. Ain't No Woman Like the One I Got by the Four Tops softly plays in the background as a very quick opening montage through the years shows how Walter, Grace and their family loved each other. What struck through the first half hour was a sense of composure, which some of these one-time holiday films usually fail to achieve. As the five-day countdown until Christmas began, the comedic writing by Talbert kicked into gear and shoved more of the serious tones out of the window. Aunt May (Mo'Nique) is very outspoken and makes her presence known from the minute she appears. Most of the personal insults come from her, but not all were cringe-worthy. I even found myself laughing in-between the more heavy-handed jokes, but it was almost too obvious in moments that the stage was her's. However, there were far too many cheesy moments and exactly that: heavy-handed jokes. Yeah, we get it, children love their iPhones and documenting everything for social media. But do we need to hear them shout, "Worldstar!"? Yeah, we also get that Uncle Lonnie (J.B. Smoove) is making Santa Claus butt jokes, but you don't need to linger on the fact that they're butt jokes. Make 'em and move forward, except for the Worldstar joke. Don't ever make that joke again. The movie also introduces Jessie T. Usher for the first time since Independence Day: Resurgence. Usher plays Evan, Walter's son and a star college football athlete who has everything, yet is addicted to painkillers he was prescribed for his once-injured shoulder. The film uses his drug use to teach a lesson later in the film that was oddly placed in-between another conflict. Rachel (Union) and her sister, Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), have a bad relationship to boot which ends up being the best relationship/conflict throughout the film. The other relationships were … eh, forgettable. There's a weaker subplot which involves Christian (Romany Malco), Walter's son-turned-politician, and it feels like it's no more than a stopgap for the "Christmas miracle" of the film. It was added to the list of generic moments triggered by the film's screenplay. Glover adds little to the film as it moves on other than stopping arguments and reminding his children and family that they need to love rather than shout. It's understandable why he's soft-spoken throughout the entire film after losing his wife, but this showcases that his best acting days may be behind him. I feel the movie will resonate well with audiences that can truly relate to the dysfunction of dinners during the holidays. There were many specific moments where the theater was in raucous laughter and others that struck heartstrings. There's fun found in a dancing scene, and Almost Christmas ends as it began: with the Four Tops. Seriously speaking, it ends on a feel-good note and is tolerable, but it just doesn't bring enough to the table to break out of its generic shell.

Reviewed by Amari-Sali 10th November, 2016

As usual, a group of middle- upper crust Black folk come together for the holidays and so begins the drama.

Whether you saw the trailer or the clips released, especially the ones featuring Mo'Nique, you have to admit this seemed like something to see. But the question is, will this be added to the likes of The Preacher's Wife, The Best Man Holiday or even A Diva's Christmas or just be another movie which comes and goes and may make you laugh, but doesn't leave a lasting effect. Characters & Story Walter (Danny Glover) For a lot of husbands, the science saying men usually die before women is some solace. But when science isn't right it makes things seem a bit unnatural. So with Walter's wife Grace (?) gone, and him having this empty house, life is strange. For even with 4 kids ranging from their 20s to maybe early 40s, they don't seem to regularly visit. However, now it is Christmas, Grace's favorite holiday, and to honor her and be with their dad, his kids, grandkids, and his kid's spouses come to Alabama to spend 5 days with each other. Heck, even their Aunt May (Mo'Nique) joins in the festivities. But while everyone may be grown, it seems they haven't matured past their childhood strifes. Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) A dentist with a fool for a husband named Lonnie (J.B. Smoove). No kids, just her career and her man, and honestly who knows what she sees in him. But, as the trailer shows, he has been seeing a lot of a woman whose name is not Cheryl. However, what the trailer doesn't show is the tumultuous relationship between Cheryl & Rachel. A relationship so toxic that what comes out of both of their mouths are worth starting a fight. Rachel (Gabrielle Union) She don't need no man, don't want no man, all she wants to do is figure out what she is going to do with her life and how she is going to keep a roof over Niya (Nadej K. Bailey), her daughter's, head. But then Malachi (Omar Epps), her best friend in high school, tries to return to being an active part in her life. Christian (Romany Malco) While the youngest son, Evan (Jessie Usher) is a football star in the making, Christian is a potential politician. One who is trying to run a clean campaign, but good intentions need to be backed by money. So with his campaign manager Mr. Brooks (John Michael Higgins), pushing for a shady company to get involved with the campaign, Walter has to remind his son about his family's history and what will happen to a big piece of it if he gets involved with this group. Highlights Funny As Hell After Mo'Nique warms up, she pretty much murders this movie. I mean, she goes well beyond being a comic relief and makes it so this film can't be considered a dramaedy but simply a comedy with dramatic elements. She isn't alone, though! J.B. Smoove has a nice bit of back and forth with her and Jessie Usher gets the occasional chance to shine. But the big surprise to me was the children. Nadej Bailey and Alkoya Brunson (who plays Camerion – Christian's son) are on the level of the kids on Black-ish. There is this innocence yet know it all attitude, mixed in with this cell-phone obsessed culture and it just works. To the point where, if I did count how many times I laughed, as a collective they might have given Mo'Nique a run for her money. A Sense of Family While a lot of the drama takes familiar forms, it is hard to argue that these characters don't seem like family. For example, I found myself, when it came to Christian and Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), wondering who was the biological child. Then when it came to Rachel and Cheryl's sibling issues, while it was a bit nastier than I think was necessary, damn if I couldn't imagine two people who have dogged each other's lives for years talking to one another like that. But what essentially makes this vibe of family seem real is Grace. Through remembering what she meant to each and every member of that family, so we see what not only got them to Walter's house but perhaps what each of them wanted in life. Hence the varying states of his kids' relationships. Criticism What About Dad? I found it very weird, with respect to Grace, that it seemed like Walter's place in his kids' lives didn't have the same influence. You don't hear Evan talking about how his dad would through the ball with him, there isn't anyone speaking on how his hard work inspired them, or anything which makes it seem like they had a close relationship with him as much as they did the mom. Something which I found sort of odd. What About…? Between trying to understand what Cheryl saw in Lonnie, who is Sonya without Christian, to how Cheryl and Rachel bury the hatchet after Rachel embarrasses Cheryl in front of the whole family, I must admit the movie quickly wrapping up story lines got me frustrated. Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing) If I based my opinion on laughs alone, my review would have been positive. However, once I really thought about who was involved with this movie and what they are capable of, I began to feel like I should have not only expected more but gotten more. For while the ghost of grace haunts the film, the jokes are too strong and come too often to really let the feeling of someone losing their mom or wife sink and effect you. Thus making this film like most comedies. It is good for a one time view and for the laughs you'll get, but afterwards it loses any sort of replay value for it lacks depth.