“Almost Christmas” is a feel-good comedy that will fill you with Christmas spirit.
Written and directed by David E. Talbert (who also wrote “Baggage Claim” and “First Sunday”), the film begins with car mechanic Walter (Danny Glover) and his wife, Grace (Lyn Talbert) celebrating Christmas with their four children over the years.
The children are either in the kitchen or running outside. Walter is out in the garage working on a car while Grace is in the kitchen cooking Christmas dinner. Among her collection of recipes is one for her sweet potato pie that the family adores. Their four children grow up to lead their own lives, but always return home for Christmas. Walter and Grace gracefully age. In 2015, Walter sits on his bed in sadness, holding a program from Grace’s funeral.
Ten months later, Walter breaks out the Christmas decorations and waits for his children. He goes in the kitchen and tries to make Grace’s sweet potato pie just right, but fails. He has no luck finding her hidden recipes.
The first to arrive is Walter’s sister-in-law, May (Mo’Nique). May is a backup singer and has toured with the greats including Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder. Next comes Walter’s son, Christian (Romany Malco) his wife, Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker) and their children (Alkoya Brunson and Marley Taylor). Christian wants to enjoy Christmas, but gets easily distracted by campaigning for senator and his campaign manager, Brooks (John Michael Higgins).
Lawyer-bound and independent single mother Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and her teenage daughter, Niya (Nadej Bailey) enter. Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) and her smooth-talking unemployed husband, Lonnie (J.B. Smoove) come next.
Cheryl and Rachel share a bitter sibling rivalry that escalates into wrestling and burning each other’s meals for the Christmas dinner.
Evan (Jessie T. Usher), the youngest sibling and aspiring football player, is the last to arrive. He wears a mask of happiness because deep down, something is eating him alive.
“Almost Christmas” has its funny scenes and one-liners. A memorable scene is when Rachel got locked out of the house by Evan while getting the daily paper. She’s only wearing her robe. She climbs through an open window, but gets stuck with her butt hanging out. Malachi (Omar Epps), Rachel’s high school crush, sees her and tries to push her in, making the situation look a little sexual in the process.
A heartwarming scene is when the whole family dances in the kitchen after reminiscing over Grace. The children play a current rap song on their phone. Then Rachel plays, “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick. Then May plays, “Let it Whip” by the Dazz Band. That’s three generations of Black music.
Mo’Nique gives a funny performance as May. However, she and a few other characters, overuse the sh** bomb. This makes the heartwarming-Christmas-feeling fade and look like an adult movie, instead of a family film. The film has transitions with a black background and words that read, “Four days to Christmas,” Three days, etc. which becomes annoying. The words should be smaller and on the bottom of the screen.
“Almost Christmas” is a Christmas movie you need to put yourself in the holiday spirit.
Studio: Universal Studios (1hr. 52 min.)
Cast: Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Kimberly Elise, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Romany Malco, Jessie T. Usher, Keri Hilson
Story: A family struggles to celebrate their first Christmas without their mom.
Director: David E. Talbert
Final Score: A-