This Christmas

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +3

Content: -2

Chris Brown, Loretta Devine, Idris Elba, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Mekhi Phifer and the ever popular Laz Alonzo. Drama. Written & directed by Preston Whitmore II.

FILM SYNOPSIS: All the Whitfields have come home for Christmas for the first time in years. And each has brought plenty of baggage. Secrets are revealed and family bonds are tested. One is running from hoods, another is cheating on his wife, one cant tell his momma that he wants to be a singer, a couple are keeping it a secret from their children that they are living together outside marriage, and one is AWOL from the army and has married a white girl.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Filmmakers just cant get away from black stereotypes, not even black filmmakers. Tyler Perry has just about cornered the gathering-of-the-family-for-a-special-event genre with mixed results. But Mr. Perry is not present here, nor is his alter ego, Madea, though shes the only ingredient missing from this dysfunctional family stew. Every theme Mr. Perry ever addressed is duplicated here by writer/director Preston Whitmore II., including the spiritual themes and with the same hit-and-miss results.

Theres some fine performing going on, frequent laughs and even a poignant moment or two, but everything from the bickering to Escalade-driving upper mobility of the characters is overly familiar. Even the spiritual themes seem to be included as if the filmmakers were saying, Hey, it worked for Tyler.

One thing mystifies me. Theres a great deal of sexual prowling around throughout this film. It becomes almost a sex farce, even to the point where one of the sisters is seen in her sexy underwear (placed no doubt to appease those not much into the spiritual themes). Along with the sexual innuendo and suggestiveness, several of the unweds treat sex outside marriage with casualness. Even the patriarchal couple, who are otherwise devoted to church and Savior, are living together outside wedlock. There doesnt seem to be a great deal of attention paid to the following scripture passed on to me by my pastor:1 Cor. 10:8; Gal 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jude 7; Rev. 9:21. (There will be some who say that these refer to the Law given to Moses and that we are no longer under the Law. But, the moral Law that was given is referred to by Jesus Himself, which in my mind validates it for then and for now. Rev. Jim Melrose.)

Is Hollywood reflecting our societys laxity concerning matrimony? Evidently. A great many in the Christian community are now living together outside marriage, thereby weakening the profundity of that institution and sending confusing messages to secular friends. (Just what they needed, more confusing messages about Christianity.) Im beginning to feel a little silly, living my celibate lifestyle while everybody else gets to crack open the cookie jar. But funny me, in this new millennium, I cant quite distinguish which biblical instructions no longer apply to the Christian lifestyle.

And lastly, we have one white character, a young girl who has married one of the sons, a soldier who we soon discover has gone AWOL. The girl is made the brunt of many fish-out-of-water jokes. Its a surprise to the family that one of their members would marry a white girl. And the filmmaker attempts to suck every ounce of humor out of this situation. Trouble is, the treatment of the situation begins to look like reverse discrimination. Marriage between different races must be handled gingerly in movies. Its not handled gingerly here. Dracula is more subtle.

The people are good looking, Christianity is uplifted rather than mocked, and the importance of family is sanctified, but the storyline gets the soap opera treatment mingled with overly familiar humor. Its like a Christmas episode of Days of Our Lives, if the Hortons and the Bradys were suddenly all African Americans.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Screen Gems

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several crude sexual remarks.

Obscene Language: Four or five s-words and several minor expletives (damns, hells, pissed).

Profanity: Jesus name is taken in vain once.

Violence: One of the brothers is trying to elude thugs he owes money to. This leads to three beat-em-up scenes, including a bottle broken over a mans head and a man kicking punched and kicked; in one scene, another brother pulls a gun in a club, which leads to his arrest; a church elder pulls a gun on a man, claiming hell kill him. Played for laughs, a woman beats her husband with a belt after discovering hes cheating on her.

Sex: Some making-out, but the scenes are interrupted before becoming graphic. It is implied that two couples live together and one of the sisters sleeps with a man she just met.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Several sexual conversations and remarks.

Drugs: A couple of the characters smoke.

Other: None

Running Time: 117 minutes
Intended Audience: Older Teens and Adults

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