Almost Christmas Parent Review
The plot never strays from the predictable, yet this crass concoction offers at least one cherry on top and that is its tribute to mothers.
Almost Christmas opens with a montage portraying the forty-five-year marriage of Grace (A. Sabrena Farmer) and Walter (Danny Glover). Starting as newlyweds, it moves through time showing the births of their four children, the couple buying their first house, and them welcoming in-laws and grandchildren. All along the way there are family occasions, great food and homemade sweet potato pie. The sequence ends with Walter alone, holding the program from Grace’s funeral.
From that heartwarming beginning we arrive at today – ten months after Grace’s passing and five days before Christmas. Sensitive to this great loss, the whole clan is gathering to celebrate the first holiday season without their wife/mother/grandmother/sister. And that is the moment the rose colored glasses come off as well.
It quickly becomes apparent that Grace’s love was the clothesline that strung the family together. In her absence the reunion disintegrates into just an opportunity to air their dirty laundry.
Oldest daughter Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) is a successful dentist, and even though her husband Lonnie (J.B. Smoove) is embarrassingly stuck in his former glory days as a basketball star, she still taunts her financial and marital status over her sister Rachel.
Divorced and a single mom, Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is trying to scrape enough funds together to finish law school. She compensates for her precarious state by being overly independent. That means she also pushes away every offer of assistance, including those proffered by her old flame Malachi (Omar Epps), literally the boy next door.
Meanwhile Christian (Romany Malco), the eldest boy, is pursuing a political career. He is too busy with his candidacy to care much about the swirl of rivalry surrounding his siblings. He is so preoccupied that he’s even having trouble staying connected to his wife Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), his children and the principles that inspired him to run for office in the first place.
The caboose of the family is Evan (Jessie T. Usher). A football hopeful, he’s trying to hide the fact that he’s picked up an addiction to prescription drugs while nursing an injury.
And last but not least is Aunt May (Mo’Nique), Grace’s sister. She arrives with the intention of helping out with the cooking, but her spicy language, saucy sexual banter and liquor swigging are all dangerous ingredients to add to the already volatile situation.
If you are thinking this is the usual recipe for the annual dysfunctional family comedy – you are right. And although the plot never strays from the predictable, this crass concoction offers at least one cherry on top and that is its tribute to a mother’s influence. Her example included supporting her children’s dreams and serving others. When Walter needs to curb the bickering between his angry bunch, he reminds his offspring of her expectations of them. And eventually, the memory of her kindness changes their bitterness.
Parents will want to consider if these few morsels make it worth eating rest of this fruitcake, which is dotted with foul language, frequent innuendo, and the depiction of an angry shot being fired at an unfaithful spouse. While it is all played for humor, this may or may not be the sort of “ho ho ho” you want to share with your older children.Directed by David E. Talbert. Starring Gabrielle Union, Danny Glover, Jessie T. Usher. Running time: 111 minutes. Theatrical release November 11, 2016. Updated February 7, 2017
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Almost Christmas here.
Almost Christmas Parents Guide
During her life Grace and her family volunteered at a homeless shelter. After her death her husband continues this service. Why was giving back to the community so important to this couple? Why does Walter remind his oldest son of the charity’s slogan: “The purpose of life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” What can you learn from this motto?
Rachel’s daughter reminds her mother that, “Life is easier if you let someone help carry your load – even if you can do it yourself.” Why does she feel her mom needs this advice? How can a determination to be independent sometimes get in the way of important relationships? What might both the giver and receiver find when they share a burden together?
Walter tries with little success to make his wife’s sweet potato pie. What does his granddaughter think is the missing ingredient? How might her suggestion help you? Why do you think food is such an important part of family culture?