Here we are with David E. Talbert’s Almost Christmas, the opening salvo in 2016’s descent into holiday schmaltz. There is nothing special nor noteworthy about Talbert’s film, the billionth version of this specific type of Christmas movie, packed with too many characters, bloated with plot and bogged down in melodrama. Some laughs are spread around here and there, but they’re hardly enough to save the movie from its own lack of originality. It’s certainly not going to become some mainstay of holiday cinema, the great dream of these types of movies.
The story here is one as old as time — or at least Christmas movies. Danny Glover plays Walter, the widowed head of an Alabama family, who’s welcoming his entire dysfunctional family home in the days leading up to Christmas. It’s a pretty threadbare premise from which Talbert (who’s working from his own script) wrenches every cliché he can. The film is awash with both a glut of characters and their various problems ranging from infidelity to drug abuse. Regardless, each is packed full for maximum drama and then mixed in with a hefty dose of familial spats and general holiday-themed high jinks. The requisite family football game is there, as is the mandatory combative family dinner with nary a surprise to be found.
The point here, of course, is a meritless attempt at being heartwarming. Generally, the film works in this regard, namely because it’s innocuous and well-meaning enough, but it mistakes a general likability for actual emotion. That likability has little to do with Talbert’s modest talents as a filmmaker and everything to do with the gigantic cast supporting the film. Glover is nice as the film’s emotional center. Mo’Nique is given free reign to be herself comedically and, along with J.B Smoove, gives the film some much needed energy.
A good, likable cast, however, can only do so much. With a nearly two-hour runtime, the film asks too much from both its cast and the viewer. A general amiability will only get you so far when you’ve got little to say beside the usual family dysfunction found in these types of movies, stretched out over a runtime that needs 20 minutes shorn from it. All this makes Almost Christmas watchable and even occasionally amusing. Just don’t expect much else from it. Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, drug content and language.
Now playing at Carolina Cinemark, Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, UA Beaucatcher.