By Cynthia Fuchs,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Family holiday dramedy has some iffy content.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Family tensions related to ongoing competition and resentments; cheating husband; people scheme to gain access to family property; minor and major lies, arguments, and disloyalties; eventual reconciliations.
Violence & Scariness
Mild, comic, and insinuated. Quentin is chased by two thugs and jumps off a fire escape. At a bar, Claude pulls out a gun to threaten a bully, causing a panic; he's later arrested by military police. Thugs catch up with Q and punch him, hard, repeatedly. Lisa and Kelli fight in the rain (pushing and hitting). Woman drives her cheating husband's car off a waterway. Joe threatens thugs with a gun; they back off. Wife hits cheating husband with a belt (he slips on an oil-covered floor; the scene seems comic, but it's tense, too).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lisa wears just bra and panties, hoping to seduce her husband. Occasional cleavage displays. Some romantic kissing between couples. Kelli has a vibrator, which her mother acknowledges. Mel and boyfriend hide in closet to kiss and initiate sex (nothing explicit). At a bar, Q and Claude discuss "hotties." After flirting at a bar, Kelli goes home with Gerald and sneaks home the next morning. Talk of protection, jokes revolving around the word "ho." Some secret relationships and cheating. Husband shown in hotel room with lover (nothing explicit; she kisses him). Malcolm emerges from shower with towel. Vaguely sexy/comic dancing under end credits.
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Language includes occasional uses of "s--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," "bitch slap," and "son of a bitch."
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Products & Purchases
No kid-oriented fare, but lots of products, both named and pictured: Nikon camera, Rolls Royce, Cadillac Escalade, BMW, Canada Dry ginger ale, Rolling Rock beer, Harley Davidson, Jeep Cherokee, Staples Center.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Quentin smokes cigarettes in several scenes; various characters drink (wine, beer, liquor) in several scenes, both at bars and at home. A couple of comic conversations about drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this holiday-themed dramedy includes some mild jokes about sex and drinking, as well as some questionable behavior. The movie's focus is on the bonds among adult siblings and their long-suffering, sometimes narrow-minded mother. Sexual content includes kissing, staying overnight with a new boyfriend, flirting, and cheating. On the violence side, thugs beat up a man who owes them money, and guns are used threateningly in a few scenes. Language includes "s--t," "damn," and "hell." One character smokes several times; characters also drink in bars and during family conflicts.
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What's the Story?
The Whitfield family reunites for the holidays in this Christmas drama about Ma' Dere (Loretta Devine) and her brood, which includes Michael (Chris Brown), an aspiring singer who hides his talents from his mother because she hasn't gotten over her long-gone musician husband. Oldest son Quentin (Idris Elba), a jazz saxophonist who shows up after four years' absence, projects his anger at Ma' Dere onto her longtime boyfriend (Delroy Lindo), and the reunion reignites the competition between married eldest daughter Lisa (Regina King) and jet-setting model/actress Kelli (Sharon Leal). Eventually the sisters bond: Lisa encourages Kelli's brand-new relationship with local charmer (Mekhi Phifer), and Kelli supports Lisa during her inevitable confrontation with her cheatin' man. Meanwhile, perpetual student Mel (Lauren London) brings home a new boyfriend; and brother Claude (Columbus Short), a Marine, is hiding his own surprise.
Is It Any Good?
A typical domestic dramedy full of trivial arguments and predictable reconciliations, This Christmas offers one exceptional moment: Chris Brown performing "Try a Little Tenderness" in a club. As soon as Ma' Dere's youngest son steps on stage, murmuring that he's nervous because it's his "first time," it hardly matters what anyone else is doing. He begins to sing, and he's brilliant. He also brings Preston Whitmore's movie to a halt. Some awkward, unnecessary cuts to reaction shots emphasize that Michael's brothers and sisters are astonished, but this one scene is only a drop in the film's large, conventional bucket full of familial deceits and resentments.
While the film makes familial grappling look mostly comic, occasional tensions erupt into full-on fights (Lisa and Kelli go at it on the front lawn, and Lisa finds a particularly physical way to punish Malcolm). Broad and farcical, such moments are less engaging than the film's subtler moments, and mostly just repeat the home-for-the-holidays movie formula. This formula is exactly why Brown's non-Christmas ballad song, so soulful and sweet, feels so refreshing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how movies tend to portray family holiday gatherings. Do you think the frequent tension and conflict (even when played for laughs) is realistic? What are holiday celebrations like in your family? Why do you think the characters in the movie so often resort to lying and keeping secrets? Does it help solve any of their problems?
- In theaters: November 21, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2008
- Cast: Chris Brown, Delroy Lindo, Regina King
- Director: Preston A. Whitmore II
- Inclusion Information: Black directors, Black actors
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: comic sexual content and some violence.
- Last updated: April 7, 2023
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