“This Christmas,” review by Susan Granger
Reminiscent of Jodie Fosters Home for the Holidays, this Yuletide-themed saga chronicles an angst-filled, three-day gathering at the Whitfields in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.
Since Pa long ago moved on, MaDere (Loretta Devine) now lives with a companion, Joe (Delroy Lindo). While the rest of her grown children know about their relationship, it comes as an unwelcome surprise to her son, Quentin Jr. (Idris Elba), a jazz musician whos been out of town for four years and is pursued by two debt-collecting thugs who show up unexpectedly.
Another son, Claude (Columbus Short), comes home in Marine uniform and without his secret (and white) wife (Jessica Stroup). A third son, teenage musician Michael, aptly called Baby (Chris Brown), is still living at home. Daughter Lisa (Regina King) is still with her philandering, chauvinistic, Princeton-educated husband, Malcolm (Laz Alonso); conflicted daughter Mel (Lauren London) is back from college with her beau Devean (Keith Robinson); and successful businesswoman daughter Kelli (Sharon Leal) lets everyone know shes several rungs up on the corporate ladder and has a charming suitor (Mekhi Phifer).
Screenwriter/director Preston A. Whitmore II (Crossover, Walking Dead) plays to his intended African-American audience, delineating the emotional baggage each sibling carries through the holidays, as secrets are revealed and family ties are sorely tested.
There are several welcome music-and-dance interludes, including Chris Browns rendition of Try a Little Tenderness and gospel singer DeNetria Champs traditional O Holy Night. The soundtrack should sell well. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, This Christmas is a timely, squabbling 7, a festive soap-opera overstuffed with suds.