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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Almost Christmas is an all-star ensemble holiday movie (stars include Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, and more) about a dysfunctional family celebrating their first Christmas after a sad loss. Although it centers on a family with three school-aged grandchildren, it's not really for kids. Mature themes include adultery, drug dependency, and grief, and language includes words like "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and more. On the sex front, there's an affair between a married man and a woman he barely knows. Adults drink, but not overly so, and one character uses illegally obtained painkillers. Still, in the end the movie offers a positive message about forgiveness, family closeness, and the power of a strong legacy.
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What's the story?
Set in Birmingham, Alabama, ALMOST CHRISTMAS follows an African-American family that's gathering for their first Christmas since their beloved matriarch's death. Widower/head of the family Walter (Danny Glover) wants his adult children to spend five days together reconnecting. Big brother Christian (Romany Malco), who's running for Congress, is visiting with his wife, Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), and two young kids. Older sister Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), a dentist, comes with her husband, Lonnie (JB Smoove), who has a wandering eye. Younger sister Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is a financially struggling single mother with a tween daughter. And "surprise" baby brother Evan (Jessie T. Usher) is recuperating from a recent college football injury. While Walter attempts to make his wife's sweet potato pie without the aid of a recipe (it's missing), Cheryl and Rachel constantly bicker. Christian keeps working with his ingratiating campaign manager, Brooks (John Michael Higgins), and Lonnie is too busy scoping out a grocery store clerk to be of any use to the family. And then there's professional backup singer Aunt May (Mo'Nique), who's always ready with a cutting quip or cocktail to stir things up.
Is it any good?
The talented all-star cast -- particularly Smoove and Mo'Nique -- makes this standard-issue dysfunctional-family holiday comedy worth watching. Although Almost Christmas' storyline is rather thin -- Dad is secretly selling the house! Evan is taking painkillers! Lonnie is a philanderer! -- the actors play their roles so well that viewers will be invested in the feel-good happy-holidays outcome. Christmas movies in general tend to be pretty predictable, but that doesn't make them any less entertaining. There's enough in director David E. Talbert's story that's poignant and sweet that moviegoers will overlook the story's more formulaic aspects.
Plus, Mo'Nique is hilarious as the wig-swapping, name-dropping Aunt May, who's performed for Mick Jagger and Chaka Khan and enjoys imparting all of her wisdom to Walter and her nieces and nephews. She and Smoove contribute the majority of the movie's humor. His character enjoys touting his brief time as a Seattle Supersonic (even though he then ended up playing ball in Croatia and is far from a household name). The movie's sibling dynamics feel authentic, with a relatable blend of rivalry, nostalgia, and dependence. And Glover's quest to perfect his wife's signature dish will pull at anyone's heartstrings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Almost Christmas depicts family relationships. What's the movie's message about the importance of having a close family?
Why do you think Christmas movies are so popular? What makes seeing movies around the holidays such a tradition for many families? What are your favorite holiday movies?
Discuss the theme of honesty in the movie. Which characters were keeping secrets or lying? How did those secrets affect them?
- In theaters: November 11, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 7, 2017
- Cast: Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Jessie T. Usher
- Director: David E. Talbert
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Holidays
- Character strengths: Empathy
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: suggestive material, drug content and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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