STUDIO: Sony Pictures
MSRP: $17.49
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
Making of Featurette
Chris Brown “This Christmas” music video
Feature lenth commentary
Extended and deleted scenes

The Pitch

Well-to-do middle class black family gets together for Christmas and brings along a whole heap of drama, comedy and soul trains. Hijinks and tears ensue.

The Humans

Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Loretta Devine, Chris Brown, Columbus Short and Regina King

The Nutshell

The end is night. People are riffing on Tyler Perry. ‘This Christmas’ follows the many, many undeveloped foibles of a black family during Christmastime. What may appear predictable on the outset is… absolutely, entirely predictable.

The Lowdown

The only that thing sucks worse than holiday music is holiday movies. And expect both in large quantities! Even in the large, horrible ranks of Christmas films, ‘This Christmas’ falls in the lower echelons on account of it’s cloying, blatantly manipulative sentimentality and failed attempts at humor.

             After years roaming Middle Earth, Treebeard meets an untimely and unfortunate end.

The Whitfield family is a cut from every writer’s book of ‘non-cliche cliches’, writer/director Preston A. Whitmore III is so in love with their characters, who range from the sassy media gal, the soldier, the jazz musician, the cheating husband and the harangued wife, that he doesn’t realize that he fails to develop most of these characters beyond the first dimension.

There are a lot of stories to be told here, and in trying to get to all of them, Whitmore III fails to do justice to any of them. It reminded me a lot of ‘Love, Actually’ but without the ridiculous amount of charm that film possessed. In the end, it is about a family, but we only know so much about them, and care even less. The script fails to capitalize on a lot of its set ups, for instance the “daughter who can’t cooking cooks” plot line goes nowhere after such a big deal was made, and ‘This Christmas’ ends up a set up to something a tad more robust. It’s a meal of fast food compared to a Christmas feast: sure, it gets the job done, but which would you rather have?

                               The funnier side of domestic violence!

To the actors’ credit, they try, oh how they try! But there’s not enough here. Only Delroy Lindo and Idris Elba, on account of their indomitable charisma and liveliness, come out better than the script had planned for them. Elba is the black sheep of the family, a jazz musician who owes his bookies a lot of money. Predictable, yes, and strangely, the source of both the movie’s best part, Elba, and it’s worst, a hilarious confrontation involving Elba, two bookies, and Delroy Lindo with a gun. If that doesn’t sound crazy, it violates the rules of the characters in many different ways. But again, the entire film is filled with characters doing things for the sake of comedy, such as Regina King ‘hilariously’ getting back at her cheating husband with a bottle of baby oil. Another thing: for once, when someone wrecks a cheating spouse’s property, I would like to see them go to jail.

Chris Brown, playing a teenager, comes off the worst. And though his acting may be shaky, he’s playing what I imagine is a younger version of himself, that boy can sing! But when the film should be focusing on its characters, it diverts entirely too much time to either a song or soul train scene.

                            Stringer Bell shows off another reason why he’s better than you.

It goes for comedy when it should go for sentiment, and vice versa. It’s not a terrible movie, it’s simply forgettable in the worst possible way. By trying to incorporate the entire black experience, from interracial dating, to family stuggle, heritage, bad/good daddies and the like, ‘This Christmas’ spreads itself a little too thin and becomes at times a bit too preachy for what should be a whimsical departure to Christmas joy. I can’t fault them for trying. Extra points for giving Idris Elba more work, but  this is Preston A. Whitmore III trying to do Tyler Perry and failing, which is shocking given the mid-level rom-com shlock Perry puts out every two weeks.

                                    Nothing says ‘family movie’ like capping a bitch.

It’s the kind movie that reminds you that, hey, my family might be weird, but at least there’s not all this drama to go along with it.

The Package

It’s a decent looking affair, nothing fancy whatsoever in the transfer. The sound is decent, even if the music you hear is lousy or forgettable, and frankly I hate the song ‘Santa Baby’, which is played at the beginning. A commentary track offers the female side of things with King, Sharon Leaf and Lauren London and is nothing too special, but is enjoyable for the girl talk involved. Deleted scenes, extended scenes and a making of featurette round out the technical aspects of the film, while those Chris Brown fans out there can revel in the This Christmas video he put out.

4.0 out of 10