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Movie Review: This Christmas

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Released by Screen Gems

In theaters November 21

Written, Directed and Produced by Preston Whitmore, II

Starring: Loretta Devine, Delroy Lindo, Chris Brown, Regina King, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Lauren London, Keith Robinson, Sharon Leal, Mekhi Phifer and Laz Alonso

 

“Hang all the mistletoe; I’m going to get to know you better, this Christmas”. Growing up in Detroit, when the radio blared Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” it meant the beginning of the holiday season. It’s the opening song and motivation This Christmas and in Hollywood, this film is an early attempt to bring eager G and PG-rated families out to the theaters.

 

An obscure place for a Christmas setting, This Christmas was shot in the heart of Southern California amongst palm trees and 70-degree evening breezes. The story revolves around a family of siblings coming home to share their secrets and scandals with their mother, affectionately known as Ma’ Dere. Perfectly cast as the head of an even more perfect ensemble is veteran actress Loretta Devine.

 

Ma’ Dere’s husband had left the family years ago to pursue a music career. Her six grown children have left the nest except for the youngest, Baby, played by R&B heartthrob Chris Brown. In the meantime, momma has been keeping company with a kind man named Joseph Black, played by Delroy Lindo. She’s been waiting four long years to see all of her babies together, and puts forth a lot of effort to make it a perfect reunion.

 

As the opening credits roll and Donny Hathaway melts through the theater speakers, This Christmas immediately makes you feel warm and fuzzy, reminiscing about growing up in a big family or grandma’s soul food cooking. Ma’ Dere is frantically putting all the finishes touches on her perfect Christmas. Her children are coming home, one by one, with hugs, kisses and sibling disses. Then realism sets in, and nostalgia of holidays past quickly fades away.

 

The kids and momma have secrets; secrets that tell the true story of who these people are and where they fit into the nucleus of family. One secret after another is revealed, and the story takes an explosive turn when Claude (Columbus Short), the disciplined yet quick-tempered Marine, lands in jail. More excitement follows when eldest son, Quentin (Idris Elba) has a run in with a debt collector, and dreams of a perfect Christmas slowly start to fade.

 

Writer/Producer/Director Preston Whitmore II explains that he developed the story based upon his own experiences. “Every character in this movie represents me and people in my life. Loretta Devine’s character is my mother, God rest her soul. Delroy’s character, Joseph Black, is the man who was with my mom most of the time I was growing up. Chris Brown’s Baby character was me growing up always with a camera in my hand and ambitions of stardom, and Columbus Short’s character, Claude, was me after I dropped out of high school to join the Marine Corp. Idris Elba who plays Quentin, the eldest son, was me right after the Marines, trying to find my way with nothing but a dream. I know my aunts and cousins will see themselves in the women of this film.”

 

The female leads include up and coming starlet Lauren London (ATL) as Mel, the college student with the rampant hormones. Regina King is the eldest know-it-all daughter called Sister, and in the middle is the independent go-getter Kelli, portrayed by Sharon Leal (right off the Number One hit, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?). No one escapes growth or ridicule in this family – everyone is examined under a fine eyeglass. In the end, everyone finds love; in themselves and the people their family.

 

What’s great about this drama is that every person has an arch – a beginning, middle and an end. Does the eldest sister realize that her marriage is in trouble? Does momma really get to love again? Does Baby’s have a chance at following his dreams like his father? All of these questions are answered in great detail. This is a great script that resonates on screen as a great film. It’s not just an African American story – it is a universal story about redemption, honesty and the importance and comfort of family.

 

 “I haven’t had my Boyz n the Hood, or Soul Food breakout film yet. I hope that This Christmas will be that movie for me,” Whitmore told AllHipHop.com. “Where I am in my career now, having been making movies for seventeen years, I realize that people, especially Black people, want to see movies that make them feel good.”

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