Movie Mom

Movie Mom

This Christmas

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for comic sexual content and some violence
Profanity:Very strong language
Nudity/Sex:Explicit sexual references and situations
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking, smoking, drug use
Violence/Scariness:Some violence and peril, domestic abuse portrayed as empowering and quasi-comic
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie, a strength of the movie is loving acceptance of an inter-racial romance
Movie Release Date:November 21, 2007
DVD Release Date:November 11, 2008

As much a tradition as indigestible fruitcake and the dogs barking “Jingle Bells,” every Christmas season brings us at least one new family holiday angst-fest, stuffed with secrets, accusations, forgiveness, food, and laughter. The best of them give us the dual pleasures of identification with the frustrations deep connections of family life and a little distance, too.
This version adheres just enough to the usual traditions to satisfy, with most of its appeal in its top-notch ensemble performances and the freshness of its setting in the home of a middle-class black family. Loretta Devine plays the mother, known to her family as “Ma Dear.” Only her youngest child is still living at home (pop star Chris Brown as Michael, known to his siblings as “Baby”). Coming back for Christmas are the rest of the siblings, each with some secret to hide or spring on the family — or both. College student Melanie (Lauren London) has a new boyfriend (Keith Robinson as Devean). Successful model Kelli (Sharon Leal) is not as confident as she would like everyone to think. Married Lisa (Regina King) is not as happy as she would like everyone to think. Marine Claude (Columbus Short) is not as single as everyone thinks. And oldest brother Quentin (Idris Elba) owes money to some people who are not exactly on Santa’s “nice” list. Even Mom has a secret. She does not want her children to know that she has been living with Joseph (Delroy Lindo).
The movie nicely captures the rhythm and volatility of adult sibling interactions, a mash-up of in-jokes, old and new and often-shifting alliances, the need for acceptance and approval, and affectionate teasing that sometimes flares up to reveal or aggravate old wounds. Director Preston A. Whitmore has a sure hand in balancing half a dozen different storylines and multiple switches of tone from light-hearted romance to lacerating confrontations and gritty drama. The plots may be predicable but the individual cast members are all superb and completely believable as family, the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Brown has a nice screen presence and delivers an outstanding rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness” as well as the title tune. The delightful closing credit sequence is one of the movie’s highlights, for its own pleasures and also for what it reveals about the strength of the cast’s connection. This movie is a pure holiday pleasure that is likely to become a standard for watching while trimming the tree for many years to come.

Parents should know that the film includes some explicit sexual references and non-explicit situations, some strong language, and some violence, including guns. A wife takes a belt to her straying husband (no injuries, more to scare and humiliate than to harm him) and this is portrayed as justifiable and quasi-comic. There is some strong language and there are some tense family situations. A strength of the movie is the loving acceptance of an inter-racial relationship.
Topics for discussion: The members of this large and loving family have a hard time telling each other the truth sometimes. What is each member who keeps a secret afraid of? What is likely to be different next year?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy What’s Cooking? from the director of Bend It Like Beckham and “The Gathering” with Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton.

  • donnie

    in your review of this film this morning on KOST 103.5 you said it was a movie about a black family without the gangsta and the hip hop. what’s that about. wow, that wasn’t a bit racist at all.

  • Keith Demko

    The site looks very sharp, Nell … I’m still a little skeptical about this one, but I think you’ve swayed me into giving it a chance

  • Pamela Cleveland

    I have not viewed this Christmas yet,But,I am somewhat of a fan of Chris Brown, Mekhi Phifer, and Loretta Devine. My only comment is this, the real world, is already aware of drugs,guns, sex,common-law-relationships and all the other ills that plague our society.It is shown during primetime on regular TV. I don’t think that it is at all influenced by this movie.I would rather focus on the positivity of it, the love of family during sad times hardimes and loss.

  • Nell Minow

    I’m so sorry it sounded that way, Donnie! What I said was that it was a pleasure to see a movie about a middle-class black family that did not play into the usual stereotypes. I certainly did not mean to appear to be perpetuating them.
    If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of it.

  • Nell Minow

    Pamela, I agree entirely, and that is what I liked about the movie. The movie has some of my favorite performers — in addition to those you mentioned, I am a big fan of Regina King, Delroy Lindo, and Lauren London. If you see it, please let me know what you think.

  • Deb

    Wonderful family movie. I always enjoy Regina King, Delroy Lindo & Loretta Divine and they did not disappoint. The cast was well rounded and really appeared to be a family. A definite must buy when it comes out on DVD.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Deb! I am so glad you liked this movie as much as I did.

  • musichyper

    I felt this movie had a really nice cohesive family story to it and had some chuckling moments, but got a bit boring as the story went on.
    I Hyped This Christmas on Everhype and gave it 84% which I think is fairly accurate.
    I wouldn’t mind getting some opinions on it . If you get on there, rate me a 5 & request friendship.

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