Director: David E. Talbert
Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes
"Almost Christmas" is written and directed by David E. Talbert, who has made such films as "Baggage Claim" and "First Sunday." This Christmas film stars an ensemble cast that make up the extended Meyer family, including Danny Glover, Mo'Nique, Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, Nicole Ari Parker, Jessie T. Usher, Kimberly Elise, and J.B. Smoove. Outside of the main family are John Michael Higgins, Omar Epps, D.C. Young Fly, and Keri Hilson.
The film opens with a montage similar to that of the animated film "Up," which covers the many years and Christmases the Meyer family have spent together through the decades. We see Danny Glover's Walter spending year after year with his wife Grace until her passing at the end of the montage. The misty eyes begin early, especially if you can relate to this loss as we can. Now, with all of his kids grown up (the youngest being a 20 year old NFL prospect played by Jessie T. Usher), they are returning to their family home for the holiday to spend their first Christmas together since their mother's death earlier that year.
Being a Christmas movie, there is certain amount of formulaic tropes that come with the genre. "Almost Christmas" is very, very sentimental, possibly even borderline sappy at times, but damn it, the melodrama works here. Unlike last year's horrible, disingenuous, unfunny slog that was "Love the Coopers," this film manages to do everything the opposite and is very funny and super charming. This is what we want from Christmas films, a certain feeling and tone of joy and love and togetherness through life's everyday madness. Beyond the hustle and bustle of not having enough money or being a single mom, of running a political campaign while also being a parent, while being unhappy with a sibling but being unfortunately thrust in close proximity of one another, this big, rambunctious, vast family of caring, angry, bitter, but loving individuals eventually must come together and settle their differences for the greater good of the family, even when it's seemingly impossible. This movie definitely captures these sentiments despite its tried and true formula.
The best part about this movie is its great cast, who all do a fantastic job coming together as one separate-but-related unit. Danny Glover has been popping up a lot this year and he hasn't disappointed us yet. He is always offering seasoned, excellent performances, and as the patriarch of the Meyer's family going through his first holiday without his wife, he plays the part both emotionally and with a commanding presence. We personally think Mo'Nique is hilarious here, but worry others might not feel the same. Her character Aunt May had us laughing almost continuously throughout the entire film as she provides some much needed comic relief during a stressful Christmas season. J.B. Smoove also fills the gaps with comedic relief as well. Smoove has proved himself more and more as an excellent comedic presence throughout his career, and though his character is sort of a sleazeball, his demeanor always keeps you engaged and chuckling. Gabrielle Union and Kimberly Elise do a stellar job portraying sisters at odds trying to tolerate each other for the sake of their father. Union's Rachel is a single mother who always seems to refuse help (even when she needs it), and it's clear that Elise's Cheryl in unhappy in her present situation for other reasons. Jessie T. Usher proves he actually does have charisma, shaking off the bland stink of his role from "Independence Day: Resurgence," where he did not get and could not give the type of performance he so clearly deserves. John Michael Higgins, though having a much smaller part, also has his moments of wit as the campaign manager of Romany Malco's Christian. Christian is always busy running his campaign and gets put at odds with his father regarding a homeless shelter that has more connection to his family than it seems.
"Almost Christmas" will make a wonderful addition to your annual holiday watch list. It is full of joy, laughs, holiday cheer, the right amount of family drama, and a likable cast of characters.
My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?