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Running Time:
2 hours

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for suggestive material, drug content and language

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
Although it's as predictable as your grandmother's holiday stuffing, still, on rare occasions, comedic sparks fly.

Almost Christmas
Walter Meyers (Danny Glover) is having a very tough time. The mother of his children and the love of his life died suddenly some months ago and he's now facing his first Christmas without her. He has also secretly made the difficult decision to sell the family home, a house that has become a place of sadness for him since his dear wife's passing. Walter is also struggling with trying to duplicate his wife's famous sweet potato pie for the holidays. He invites his four adult children and their families to spend Christmas together in that house (one last time), despite the problems that he knows they have getting along.

As with all families, there are a lot of differences within the Meyers family – and a lot of history – some positive and some… challenging. Rachel (Gabrielle Union) is a single mom who's very independent (almost pathologically so) who aspires to be a lawyer, but feels stuck in her job as a waitress. Rachel's lack of actual accomplishments brings judgment from her older sister, Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), who is a dentist. But Cheryl has problems of her own, mostly because of Lonnie (J. B. Smoove), her ex-athlete husband who constantly talks about his glory days, often to pretty young women who are not his wife.

Walter also has two sons who are at very different places in their own lives. Christian (Romany Malco) and his wife, Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), have their hands full with two precocious children. Christian is also running for Congress and is so focused on his campaign that he brings his campaign manager (John Michael Higgins) with his family for the holidays. The youngest of Walter's kids, Evan (Jessie T. Usher) is a college football player with lots of potential – if he can recover from a shoulder injury, and stop taking his pain killers, and get past his mother's death, which seems to be affecting him more than his siblings.

Not only are all these related (but very different) people coming together for Christmas, they're all staying in the family home for the days leading up to the holiday. Adding to the… um, festivities are Walter's loving but loud and opinionated sister-in-law, career back-up singer Aunt May (Mo'Nique), Evan's best friend, Eric (DC Young Fly), who has "a thing" for Aunt May, next-door neighbor Malachi (Omar Epps), against whom Rachel is nursing a very old grudge, and a local grocery store cashier named Jasmine (Keri Hilson) who has what turns out to be an unfortunate connection with two members of the extended Meyers family. There's plenty for this collection of characters to try to work through during these five days – without killing each other in the process. It's a good thing that it is almost Christmas.

Almost Christmas is one of the best holiday family comedies in years. Its plot calls to mind the fun of 1989's "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". That film may have more laughs, but this one has more heart. Both have outrageous moments – and moments to make you chuckle – and smile. This ensemble is terrific (especially Danny Glover, in one of his best recent roles) and each actor has a lot to do, with good character development and backstories that are engaging and come together wonderfully. While Almost Christmas isn't especially original, it's otherwise almost perfect.

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