Whitfield's Winter Wonderland
It's Christmas the time when dysfunctional families come together to put themselves through a few hours, some times days of arguments and misery or at least that is what cinema would have us believe as there have been a few movies about the misery of the Christmas family reunion. And to some extent "This Christmas" is one of those movies, there are various issues from marriage problems to boyfriends which typically get sorted out in time for the feel good, sentimental ending. But then "This Christmas" also feels more like a family reunion movie rather than one purely about them being dysfunctional because whilst we have the Whitfield family getting together for Christmas with their issues and secrets, a big part of the movie is about moving on and letting go of the past and any hang ups. It helps to lift it into something more than just a typical feel good Christmas movie, working on the dynamics between characters rather than just cliche Christmas set pieces.
It's Christmas and with that it means the entire Whitfield family are returning home to Ma'Dere (Loretta Devine - Life Is Not a Fairytale) including her son Quentin (Idris Elba - Prometheus) who hasn't been home in four years. But with each member of the Whitfield family returning they bring more than just gifts with them as they all have issues and secrets which end up threatening to put a dampener on the festivities.
So as mentioned on first glance "This Christmas" looks like one of those typical dysfunctional family Christmas movies with the USP being a cast of mainly African Americans. And initially it plays out like your typical dysfunctional Christmas movie as each one of the Whitfield family return be it married daughters or ones with boyfriends in tow. And to make it feel even more stereotypical we have scenes such as Ma'Dere gently nudging one daughter about when she is going to settle down whilst her partner Joe is organizing a lot of Christmas stuff such as going off to buy the tree.
But get past this typical, even cliche set up and "This Christmas" develops into something more interesting because for all the secrets and issues which each family member has end up interconnecting. We have Lisa whose marriage is a sham but she feels she gave up her life and stayed working for their mum because her sister cleared off. And then there is musician Quentin who may have a couple of bookies after him also has issues with Joe who's not his father and also issues because his real father, who was a musician, running off causing Ma'Dere to hate music. To be honest there is a lot going on and we have a lot of characters to bring an unrealistic amount of drama to the Whitfield household but even so it makes it interesting.
It's interesting because there is a real spark between every actor, when Lisa and her sister Kelli argue actresses Regina King and Sharon Leal really go for it filling every line with attitude. The same when ever Quentin shows his disdain for Joe there is real belief which comes across from the attitude which Idris Elba delivers. I could go on because every one of the cast puts in a good performance even Keith Robinson as Devean, Mel Whitfield's boyfriend, because whilst he doesn't have a lot to do other than deliver some typical nervous boyfriend laughs he gets it spot on. Also getting it spot on is Chris Brown who plays the youngest of the Whitfield family Michael and not only does it mean we have a couple of enjoyable musical scenes he also delivers a believable character.
But the thing is that whilst "This Christmas" has a lot which is right with it and has this brilliant family dynamic going on it does do a few things very wrong and unfortunately they spoil it. Now one of these is obvious and no real spoiler if I say the feel good happy every after ending is so sickly sentimental and cheesy that it is simply wrong. Don't get me wrong because you expect a feel good ending but this one is simply too much. And then there is a certain series of scenes which feature an SUV getting totalled by an angry Whitfield and then that same Whitfield whipping someone with a belt. These scenes are so out of place, so over the top that any intentional humour in them is lost because they don't fit in with the tone of the rest of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "This Christmas" is an entertaining Christmas movie which thrives on the character dynamics brought on through their secrets and issues. But unfortunately a few scenes including an overly sweet ending end up spoiling what for most is a very good movie.
Tags: Christmas Movies