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Family matriarch Ma'Dere Whitfield (Loretta Devine) awaits her family's holiday homecoming. Joining her companion Joe (Delroy Lindo) and teenage son Baby (Chris Brown) are homemaker daughter Lisa (Regina King); tough but lonely businesswoman Kelli (Sharon Leal); conflicted college student Mel (Lauren London); returning Marine Claude (Columbus Short); and - eventually - touring musician, Quentin (Idris Elba). Current and prospective mates include Mel's beau Devean (Keith Robinson), Lisa's materialistic spouse, Malcolm (Laz Alonso) and a charming fireman (Mekhi Phifer) with eyes for Kelli. And they each have a secret that's about to be revealed.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A happy Christmas package that more or less ignores the fact that it's a black American family story. And this is no poor black neighbourhood shindig: Ma'Dere lives in a splendid big house in a fancy Los Angeles suburb and they all drive fancy cars and they have a plenty big Christmas feast. With full Christian rituals and prayers - and full family feuds and squabbles. But to his credit, Preston A. Whitmore II isn't content to slip and slide around the surface of some of these conflicts and there are serious moments that anchor the film's mood in reality.

The film is punctuated by some great music. It even begins in a jazz club, with that classic cheeky standard, Santa Baby, in which the singer implores Santa to remember her presents, like a diamond ring. Another musical highlight is Baby Michael's nightclub debut, (Chris Brown) singing Try A Little Tenderness, an event neatly woven into the story tapestry. Later, a soaring gospel rendition of O Holy Night followed by Brown closing the film with the title song, with its emotional overtones as his mother is finally convinced music can be a force for good - not just a force that separates her from her former husband and eldest son.

From Loretta Devine to Regina King and from Delroy Lindo to Makhi Phifer, the entire cast is credible and compelling. The essence of the film is the importance and value of family - which the Christmas setting underlines. A surprisingly invigorating and enjoyable film, This Christmas is also a - largely - schmaltz-free zone with something to say.

Published December 11, 2008

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(US, 2007)

CAST: Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Loretta Devine, Chris Brown, Keith Robinson, Laz Alonso, Columbus Short, Sharon Leal, Lauren London, Mekhi Phifer, Regina King

PRODUCER: William Packer

DIRECTOR: Preston A. Whitmore II

SCRIPT: Preston A. Whitmore II

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alexander Gruszinsky

EDITOR: Paul Seydor

MUSIC: Marcus Miller


RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes



DVD RELEASE: December 3, 2008

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