Almost Christmas (2016)

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 Almost Christmas is directed and written by David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim, First Sunday) and has a large ensemble cast featuring Kimberly Elise (John Q, Dope), Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon, Shooter), Mo'Nique (Precious, The Parkers), J.B. Smoove (Date Night, The Sitter), Nicole Ari Parker (Boogie Nights, Remember the Titans), Jessie T. Usher (Independence Day: Resurgence, Survivor's Remorse), Gabrielle Union (Bad Boys 2, Bring it On) and Keri Hilson (Think Like a Man). "A dysfunctional family gathers together for their first Christmas since their mom died" (IMDB, 2016). Almost Christmas is one of those festive films that will likely go under the radar for most due to a limited UK release, are masses of audiences missing out on much?

I actually liked this film - I am in no rush to watch it again but it certainly was a pleasant watch. It is the perfect type of film to watch at this time of year - it is festive, fun and full of heart. Even though it does not really do anything different and I would not class it as a 'must watch', if you do happen to come across Almost Christmas and want to watch a festive flick, it may be worth your time. This is also a refreshingly diverse feature - even though there are less white characters and ultimately Hollywood needs to reach a point where there is a balance but I think the lack of diversity in this respect was suitable for the story the film was telling - it is about family and usually families are all the same ethnicity. 

Even though there are many fun and likeable qualities about Almost Christmas, when you actually take away the Christmas element, it is a pretty average film with some mediocre and forgettable performances - the cast are all B-level talent and I don't think this film is going to do much to change that. It's not as if the performances were terrible and unwatchable, they just weren't anything special. Mo'Nique does a great Octavia Spencer impression and could easily be mistaken for her. The most unlikeable character and possibly weakest performance (other than the child actors) was probably from Jessie T. Usher - his character came across cocky and very irresponsible and I found the performance a little forced. Evan (Usher) also seemed to want to steal every scene he was in, it didn't work. There's only so much Usher could do with an unlikeable character.  The cast are all fine but this film won't be getting them extra work. 

The story is pretty simple - it's the run up to Christmas and all the family are together for the first time since the heart of the family passed away - their mum. This is quite a touching story and it is nice to see everyone come together to be supportive. However, such a big family does mean there will be some interesting family dynamics - there is tension, humour but also love. Some of the developments towards the end of the film did add some extra spice to the mix but I feel the revelations were left a little late, they could have been much more effective. There were some lovely lines in this film - the most memorable for me was 'The Bigger the tree, the bigger the love' - this is actually something I can relate to as my mum always picks a tree that is way too big but now she has an excuse that is actually quite heart-warming. Almost Christmas is a film that is full of lots of heart and I think that is what makes it so likeable, fun and festive to watch - it has the basics of what a Christmas film needs to have. 

So is Almost Christmas funny? I would say it is, yes. This isn't a constant laugh-out-loud flick but there are funny moments throughout. However, my favourite comedic moment was definitely towards the end of the film when J.B. Smoove and Keri Hilson are reunited at the family dinner - this was very funny and I actually thought it was a pretty clever comedic moment as it tied everything together. However, this scene is tipped off the edge a little when the use of a gun comes into play - this happens in The Perfect Guy and it really was unnecessary - when the character goes to get Grandma, there could have been so many funnier ways to have the scene layout that did not involve a gun. Another funny moment I enjoyed was when all of the generations were dancing to their favourite songs - this was a nice moment to see the family come together. 

But is it festive? I would say yes to that question as well. I definitely left the cinema feeling Christmassy and I probably would not resist watching it again this time next year. I don't know if it will stand the test of time and become a festive classic (something tells me not) but whenever you watch it, you are guaranteed to feel happy when you are finished watching it. A Christmas film should be likeable, generally upbeat, heart-warming and obviously include Christmas as a key theme and Almost Christmas has all of those things. 

Almost Christmas gets a pass - if only if wasn't so average, it would easily be a go-to Christmas classic. Technically speaking, this film does nothing different and isn't anything special. The acting is mediocre and none of the performances are too memorable. However, it is so darn likeable, it's hard not to enjoy watching. This definitely ticks all the boxes audiences want from a Christmas film and the story is touching and full of love. The cast is huge so maybe it is 'the bigger the cast, the bigger the love'?. 


What did you think of ALMOST CHRISTMAS? Did it make you feel festive? - COMMENT BELOW

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