This year Christmas with the Whitfields promises to be one they will never forget. All the siblings have come home for the first time in years and they've brought plenty of baggage with them. As the Christmas tree is trimmed and the lights are hung, secrets are revealed and family bonds are tested. As their lives converge, they join together and help each other discover the true meaning of family.
Touted as a comedy but filled with its share of drama, This Christmas focuses on a middle-class African American family celebrating the holiday together at the matriarch's home. Ma'Dere Whitfield (Loretta Devine) lives with her youngest son Michael (singer Chris Brown) and her longtime boyfriend Joe (Delroy Lindo). Though all the kids know about her relationship, Ma'Dere insists that Joe temporarily move out every holiday season. Her kids don't care that they're cohabitating, but they play along. The Whitfield kids are a hodge podge of trouble: Eldest daughter Lisa (Regina King) tries to convince Ma'Dere to sell her home and business at the behest of her wandering husband; Claude (Columbus Short) is a Marine whose holiday leave actually is a euphemism for AWOL. And even sweet Michael looks like he might break his mama's heart by pursuing a career in music (a nice setup that treats viewers to a few songs by Brown). Ma'Dere's husband had left the family years ago to follow his musical dream and she's afraid her son will follow suit. The Whitfields definitely are a dysfunctional family with numerous skeletons stuffed away in the closet. Though not earth-shattering in terms of plot (one of them is having a relationship with a Caucasian!), the film touts a strong cast that makes some of the implausible elements relatable. King, who grew up on television on shows such as 227, does a superb job adding depth and emotion to a rather unlikeable and bossy character. While not warm and fuzzy, This Christmas is a welcome addition to any holiday viewing. Just make sure small children aren't included in the audience. --Jae-Ha Kim