Pros:Molina, Leguizamo, nice sense of family togetherness
Cons:could almost use a bit more conflict, a few gritty elements
The Bottom Line: A scattered family converges in Chicago for Christmas.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Last night, my friend Dan and I embarked upon an epic movie marathon to serve the multiple purposes of hanging out with each other, catching up on some must-see movies and helping ensure Dan would be good and tired for his cross-country flight today. Among the five movies we watched, only one was unfamiliar to me. Though I didn’t recall hearing anything about it before, I’ve been so anxious to break out the Christmas fare lately that I readily gave the A-okay to Nothing Like the Holidays, a 2008 movie about a Puerto Rican family gathering together for Christmas in Chicago.
The film is directed by Alfredo De Villa with a screenplay by Alison Swan and Rick Najera. I haven‘t seen any of their previous work, but as the opening credits rolled I spotted a few familiar names. A bushy-bearded Alfred Molina portrays cuddly patriarch Edy, whose joviality hides a secret that threatens to tear the family apart. John Leguizamo is Mauricio, the practical, rather geeky son whose Jewish, career-minded wife Sarah (Debra Messing) is starting to feel some major pressure to start a family.
Most of that comes from her mother-in-law Anna (Elizabeth Pena), who isn’t as insufferable as Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Marie but does seem to have a special talent for displaying a sweet demeanor dripping with veiled antagonism. Mauricio’s siblings include troubled young veteran Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez), just home from a tour in Iraq, and aspiring actress Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito). Both must deal with romantic entanglements during their time at home. Meanwhile, hapless family friend Johnny (Luis Guzman) keeps the family in stitches with his ridiculous remarks.
This movie reminds me very much of 2007’s This Christmas and 2005‘s The Family Stone, both films about large, complicated families convening for the holiday, neither of which I enjoyed as much as this. There’s a whole lot of dysfunction in both of those families, rendering the Rodriguezes pretty placid by comparison, but there are a few conflicts that surface here, with the most pressing issue finding touching resolution by the movie’s end.
There’s a certain grittiness to the film that keeps it from falling firmly into warm and fuzzy territory, but it teeters on the edge of that description. Even the obnoxious characters have endearing qualities, and it’s plain that affection runs deep in this family despite problems that arise. If anything, the conflicts may manifest themselves too seldom, making the movie seem to meander along in no particular direction at times. But for the most part, Nothing Like the Holidays is actually quite like the kind of holidays most families would like to have.
This review is an entry in the Lean-n-Mean Write-Off VIII. Sometimes, less really can be more! It's also an entry in Chelledun's "Get Those Holiday Reviews Out" Write-Off. Let's get into the Christmas spirit!
Viewing Format: DVD