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Running Time:
1 hour, 39 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for thematic elements including some sexual dialogue, and brief drug references.

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This is a pleasant holiday movie with a winning ensemble cast.

Additional Info:
Alfred Molina ... Edy Rodriguez
Elizabeth Peña ... Anna Rodriguez
Freddy Rodríguez ... Jesse Rodriguez
Luis Guzmán ... Johnny
Jay Hernandez ... Ozzy
John Leguizamo ... Mauricio Rodriguez
Debra Messing ... Sarah Rodriguez

Nothing Like the Holidays
The boisterous Rodriguez family gathers for the holidays at the home of patriarch (Alfred Molina "Spider-Man 2), a bodega owner, and his wife, Anna (Elizabeth Peña "Lone Star") who live in Chicago's Puerto Rican community. Son Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez "Poseidon") is just home from Iraq, bearing scars both visible and not, while pining for Marissa (Melonie Diaz "Hamlet 2"), the girl he left behind. Daughter Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito "25th Hour") has become a "star" in Los Angeles, but she's really not, and spends the entire holiday waiting for a call regarding whether she's landed a long-awaited role in a movie. Big brother Mauricio (John Leguizamo "Moulin Rouge") is a successful attorney and his high-powered executive wife Sarah (Debra Messing "The Wedding Date"), are both so career-driven they've yet to fulfill Anna's wish for grandchildren. "She won't cook or eat," the older woman mutters in Spanish about her rich, white daughter-in-law, while family and friends paint Mauricio as a sellout and wonder why he and the missus haven't produced a "Sorta Rican." They are joined by their friend Ozzy (Jay Hernandez "Hostel") who's had a crush on Marissa since they were little while their cousin Johnny (Luis Guzman "Boogie Nights") tells everyone about everybody’s business and never stops eating.

The story’s not complete without Donder and Blitzen and Rudolph and, of course, the symbolic old crooked tree in the front yard which refuses to be cut down. It’s all great because it’s Christmas and what really matters is that everyone’s all together.

 The best part of the film directed Alfredo De Villa ("Adrift in Manhattan") is the earnestness of the performances; most notably Elizabeth Peña, who, despite the huge cast, uses her limited screen time to portray the powerful family matriarch. Giving another memorable performances is Luis Guzman who is really funny and gets to show a very human side of his comedic persona that isn't on display in many of his more manic movie roles.

If only the movie took a few risks. As is, it's a thin, almost claustrophobic story, with the family spending so much time inside the house bantering, arguing and reconnecting that the occasional snow-covered, exterior scenes are a welcome relief.



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