Movie Mom

Movie Mom


The Perfect Holiday

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:PG for language and some suggestive humor.
Profanity:Some mild language
Nudity/Sex:Kisses, some scanty costumes
Alcohol/Drugs:Social drinking
Violence/Scariness:Acrimonious divorced parents, neglectful father, mild peril
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:December 12, 2007
DVD Release Date:November 11, 2008

perfect%20holiday.jpg
This sugarplum of a movie is held together with good intentions and paperclips, but its appealing cast and seasonal sweetness make it — if not the perfect holiday treat, a pleasantly enjoyable one, especially welcome because there are so few Christmas stories about African-American families.


A little girl tells a department store Santa that her single mother needs a compliment, and that leads to a number of romantic and professional complications. The Santa is Benjamin (the always-welcome Morris Chestnut), a would-be songwriter who thinks if he can just get big star J-Jizzy (Charlie Murphy, completely over the top) to perform his song, his career will be made. The compliment leads to a romance with the little girl’s mother, Nancy (the always-appealing Gabrielle Union). The complication comes when it turns out that Nancy’s ex-husband is J-Jizzy. And the little girl’s brother thinks that Benjamin is the reason his parents are not getting back together. And J-Jizzy needs a new song right away for his Christmas album, which in movie magic world is going to be recorded and released immediately.
The neglectful rap star father is neither as funny or as heart-warming as intended. The kids cannot act. Queen Latifah (who produced) is wasted as storyteller/angel(?), and Terrance Howard(!) is not just wasted but downright tortured as her silent sidekick. But Chestnut and Union give the thin material more than it deserves and when they are onscreen they make it work. Two of the most engaging and talented actors in Hollywood, both have been on the brink of an A-list break-through for far too long. They give full, thoughtful, and utterly delightful performances, keeping the film out of sitcom stickiness by making us care about their characters and want them to care about each other.
Parents should know that this movie concerns an acrimonious divorced couple and a neglectful father and the effect this has on their children. A child hopes his divorced parents will get back together and is upset when his mother gets a new boyfriend. There is some suggestive humor (a “ho” joke) and characters wear scanty costumes. A child is in peril. Characters drink wine. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of diverse characters, though there is some stereotyping of the rapper.
Families who see this movie should talk about what their idea of a “perfect holiday” is. Why did the children have different reactions to Benjamin? Why was it hard for Benjamin to tell Nancy the truth?
Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Christmas classics Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! / The Year Without a Santa Claus / Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July / Rudolph’s Shiny New Year / and More).



  • Dustin Putman

    Nell-
    Saw this film last night at Gallery Place. Wasn’t a big fan of “This Christmas,” but that was the height of cinematic brilliance in comparison to this. You can read my review for my full thoughts (haha) but I found it absolutely miserable. I agree with you that there aren’t enough Christmas-themed movies with African-American characters, but they deserve better than this.
    I despise love stories that are based on lies and deceit, especially when there is no reason for the characters to lie and deceive in the first place. I despise love stories even more when the key getting-to-know-you scene is turned into a montage with music, silencing their dialogue and any discernible connection between them. I found the female depiction of Gabrielle Union offensive and archaic. I found J. Jizzy’s “You’re fired” line to his son despicable, especially when, in the next scene, the film tries to redeem him as not such a bad guy after all. And why did the film end on Christmas Eve and J. Jizzy’s record had yet to be released yet? Kind of makes a Christmas album pointless. Don’t get me started on Terrence Howard. I don’t think I’ve ever been more embarrassed for an actor in memory. And to top it all off, they didn’t even get the CGI snow right.
    Enough ranting…
    this movie really rubbed me the wrong way.

  • Nell Minow

    Loved your review, as always Dustin!
    “About as appetizing as a candy cane laced with arsenic, this hoary piece of seasonal dreck starts off on the wrong foot with an awkward main titles sequence featuring some terribly unfortunate animated representations of Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard, then goes downhill from there. Every time the viewer thinks to themselves that the writing can’t get any more pea-brained and the proceedings can’t get any more embarrassing for all involved, they do.”
    On a relative scale, it was a thousand times better than “The Cookout” or your favorites and mine, “Christmas with the Kranks,” “Deck the Halls,” and “Surviving Christmas.” I like Chestnut and Union so much they acted as teflon for me; the bad script slid right off of them, leaving all their charm and talent, and edging it into the category of “just watchable.”
    I will say, though, that I do not consider a full-time mother (and this one was loving and devoted and making up for an absent father) to be without aspirations or goals (or a job). And I note that Queen Latifah is in the movie because she produced it (so blame her) and Terrence Howard is in it because they are in business together.

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