It’s November, which means the radio is already broadcasting Bing Crosby, the stores are decked out in tinsel, and the
theaters are playing holiday comedies about dysfunctional families. This year’s entry, David E. Talbert’s Almost Christmas, follows the Meyers as they gather for their first holiday since the unexpected death of their matriarch earlier that year. Danny Glover stars as Walter, the stoic widower who implores his children to spend five days together without killing each other, and the usual holiday high jinks ensue: Casseroles are burned, mistresses show up to Christmas dinner, and uncles fall off the roof while trying to fix decorations.
The story focuses on Walter’s four children — Jessie T. Usher as a college football player with a secret, Gabrielle Union as a recently divorced law student, Romany Malco as an aspiring congressman, and Kimberly Elise as a dentist with a boneheaded husband (JB Smoove) — as the siblings try to cope with their wacky relatives, appease their father, and deal with the still-painful loss of their mother. Like most holiday comedies of its kind, Almost Christmas oscillates between rapid-fire jokes and schmaltzy, occasionally heartwarming lessons about the importance of family. Mo’Nique is responsible for most of the laughs as the wisecracking, kimchi-eating aunt who spent the past few decades on the road as a backup singer and has the wild anecdotes to prove it. (In case there weren’t already enough chairs at the Christmas dinner table, there’s also a couple of precocious children, a sexy and single next-door neighbor, a meddling campaign manager, and a seductive grocery-store clerk.) In all, it’s a pleasant enough way to spend two quiet hours with the extended family, but Almost Christmas probably won’t be your next holiday tradition. B–