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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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.