After the death of his wife the family patriarch, Walter, played by “I’m too old for this shit” Danny Glover, attempts to get through his first Christmas. Writer/Director David E. Talbert gently starts the movie with a clever introduction of Walter and his wife, Grace, a cute young couple happily in love, and moves us through the years. The clips, in particular, show Grace feeding Walter a piece of sweet potato pie, a Christmas staple, setting up the hole in the hearts and the stomachs of all who will feel abandoned by its absence; by not seeing it waiting for them to eat this year, by not seeing the maker of the pie. As we meet the present day widower, we feel we know him and for him.
Struggling with whether or not to now sell his house, Walter decides not to tell his family but rather brings them all together for possibly one last Christmas in the family home. His adult children start to file in, some of whom don’t get along very well, and he finds himself playing referee almost immediately. All he is asking for from them is five good days, is he asking for too much of them?
Through the film, there are tender moments and comedic moments. Mo’Nique is responsible for most of the comedy relief. She plays Aunt May and steps into the role of her sister, trying to make sure this dysfunctional family doesn’t fall apart. She does a great job of making the audience laugh, dealing with the burden of the holiday and the heavy hearts within the house. Writing slapstick comedy and mixing it with the appropriate amount of drama, plus the perfect chemistry of the actors on screen, makes this film one Talbert can be proud of.
There are a lot of moving pieces and a lot going on with this cast from Malachi (Malco) venturing into a business deal that would kill his mother’s favorite charity to drug use by Walter and Grace’s youngest son (Usher). The sisters are about to kill one another, and while that’s going on one of the men, Uncle Lonnie, (Smoove) is doing the unthinkable during this holiday break with a cashier he meets at a store.
How these moments are handled, with fights or teasing, is what you’ll find it hard not to remember. Hysterical scenes of the family coming together, such as a scene where they dance away the grief over their missing mother for a moment and flashes of discussing their mother and how much she loved them are the points of most significance in a film that almost all are. The emotion is palatable and at times such as this in life, “Almost Christmas” will be one you’ll be unable to forget this season. It’s usually a good sign that the director has done his job when at the end of the movie, nobody wants to leave. Rather than stay for a second showing, you can always purchase this to keep for your very own as I intend to do. This was almost the perfect Christmas film. There were a few incidents where the performances went a little over the top but outside of those moments I’d put it alongside any of the comedy holiday greats going as far as to say you’ll feel the same way. Take my advice and add it to your collection.