ALMOST CHRISTMAS — Review by Susan Granger

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It’s been a tough year for mild-mannered Walter Meyers (Danny Glover). A retired automotive engineer in Birmingham, Alabama, he’s lost his beloved wife Grace. Which is why – five days before Christmas – he’s so looking forward to his four adult children and their youngsters returning home for the holidays. Read on…

There’s open hostility between recently divorced law student/mom Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and her over-achieving older sister, Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), a dentist whose flirtatious husband Lonnie (J.B. Smoove) is an obnoxious, ego-centric ex-basketball pro.

Walter’s older son Christian (Romany Malco) is an ambitious politician, running for Congress, who arrives with his wife Sonya (Nichole Ari Parker) and his campaign manager, Alan (John Michael Higgins), while his much younger brother, Evan (Jessie T. Usher), is a college football player who has become addicted to pain killers after a recent injury.

Trying to fill in for her deceased sister, sassy Aunt May (Mo’Nique), who has been touring the world as a backup singer, prepares an international ‘welcoming’ buffet which turns out to be inedible – unless one’s culinary taste revolves around kimchi.

There are numerous farcical hijinks, plus Rachel’s reuniting with neighbor Malachi (Omar Epps), her high-school sweetheart, and nostalgia surfaces when it’s discovered that Walter is secretly planning to sell the large family home.

Writer/director David E. Talbert (“Baggage Claim”) throws in nostalgic sketches, like Walter’s pathetic attempt to re-create Grace’s famous Yuletide sweet-potato pie, but the result is yet another, episodic, overly contrived, dysfunctional family comedy/drama.

Actually, the best chuckle comes when Walter wearily mutters, “I’m too old for this shit,” a not-so-subtle reference to his memorable “Lethal Weapon” quip.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Almost Christmas” is a familiar, formulaic 5, including the outtakes during the final credits.

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