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Almost Christmas – Movie Review

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Almost Christmas – Movie Review

Rating: D (Very Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

The ensemble Christmas comedy has almost became an annual holiday tradition and Almost Christmas is just the latest to center around a family in flux, only a year after the schmaltzy Love the Coopers hit the screens. Unfortunately, this is just as excruciating as it pummels the audience with broad gags and the most gooey sentimentality imaginable. The actors are given so little direction by David E. Talbert, who also wrote the screenplay, their only performance mode is mugging for the camera. This is a sitcom stretched to almost two hours and somehow it has been granted a theatrical release.

Almost Christmas quickly sets up its characters with a montage that seeks to rival Up in uplift and gut-punch emotion, but comparing it to that classic opening feels like an insult to what the Pixar artists created. Every five minutes, the script feels the need to remind the audience the matriarch of the family has passed away. And with that comes the violin music, clichéd dialogue and a stick frequently poking the audience to get them to cry. Danny Glover has to shoulder most of these scenes, but it only reminds one that he deserves far better than this schlock.

The script tries to divide time between the multiple storylines, most of which fall into obvious resolutions and running gags. The worst of the lot involves J.B. Smoove’s former basketball player as he finds himself getting entangled with an attractive supermarket employee and the shenanigans that ensue. Smoove desperately tries to gain laughs from the audience, but his performance consists of making ridiculous faces. His worst moment comes in a scene involving an electric Santa Claus, which only seeks to remind us what a much funnier film Christmas Vacation is. Jessie Usher’s arc, in which he becomes addicted to drugs, is barely explored and becomes the biggest excuse for schmaltz. Romany Malco, playing a candidate running for office, goes through a predictable storyline with the usual clichés of the persistent campaign manager and even the development deal that the audience knows he will never approve of despite the plot so carefully trying to convince us otherwise.

The worst performance comes courtesy of Mo’Nique, who is saddled with all of the most unfunny one-liners and of all of the family members, she has the least reason to be there. It is the most over-the-top performance of the bunch and the most annoying to have to sit through. The one saving grace in Almost Christmas is Gabrielle Union. Always bringing some ray of light to whatever project she appears in, the few humourous lines come courtesy of her. We still get the heavily telegraphed plot points and overly syrupy scenes, but Union ends up the only tolerable character in the film.

There is little joy to be found in Almost Christmas. There is so much cliché and unoriginality in this production, one almost expects the same hospital dance scene that showed up in Love the Coopers. Worst of all is how lacking the jokes are and their execution is desperately trying to gain laughs from the audience. The ensemble of actors roped into this certainly have talent, but most of it is not evident on-screen. One of the few positives that can be said about Almost Christmas is its early November release means it will be gone from most screens by the time the actual holiday rolls along.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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