This Christmas looked like it was going to pass without any cinematic holiday cheer. Luckily audiences will find a special gift at their local multiplexes from Preston A. Whitmore, a filmmaker whose latest picture comes wrapped up with so much holiday mush that it would be hard for even the biggest scrooge to scowl at its spirited Christmas message
It's the most wonderful time of the year again, and the Whitfield family plans to continue their holiday tradition of bringing the entire clan back home for a few days of presents, good eating and family squabbling. The only problem with This Christmas is that each of the children has brought more than just gifts. Absence without leave, surprise pregnancies, interracial relationships, cheating husbands and angry bookies are just a few of the surprises in store for the family's matriarch, Ma Dear, making it a Christmas that will either tear the Whitfield's apart or bring them closer than they've ever been before.
With This Christmas, Preston A. Whitmore successfully bounced back from his sophomore slump. The choice to "Crossover" into the holiday genre is a big move, though looking at the filmmaker's oeuvre, he seemingly defies categorization. Written with heart, This Christmas isn't just impressive for its well balanced drama and comedy. Its ability to transcend its targeted audience to become a holiday film that can be enjoyed by anyone who has ever experienced family dysfunction makes the picture a refreshing surprise.
With an all-star, African American cast including Delroy Lindo, Loretta Devine, Idris Elba and the lovely Sharon Leal, Screen Gems certainly seems to be pushing the racial factor when marketing This Christmas. While this strategy will probably draw in adequate box-office receipts (See Tyler Perry's success), This Christmas will draw the majority of its fans next Christmas when it finds a wider audience on DVD.
Though many of the family's problems translate to touching and humorous bits of cinema, This Christmas ultimately suffers from one fatal flaw, too much conflict and no easy way out of it. There is so much going on, that the tidiest and most satisfying conclusion seems far too difficult to reach. It also seems that the character of Joe, played by Delroy Lindo, has the answers to everything. Able to pacify everyone from street thugs to the U.S. government in a single night, Joe gives Santa Claus a run for his money on this Christmas Eve.
However plausibility isn't the strong suit of the Whitfield family. There are plenty of nit-picky details audiences will pick up on that could easily take them out of the narrative. While viewers might scoff at bits such as buying the picture-perfect Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, the performances from the actors, tight editing and gorgeous cinematography will help get you through This Christmas.
If filmmakers should write what they know, then Preston A. Whitmore certainly knows Christmas and family far better than war or basketball. A solid holiday outing sure to please any audiences that comes across the film, Whitmore's well executed dramady should resonate far longer than This Christmas.