2016, PG-13, 112 min. Directed by David E. Talbert. Starring Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Nov. 18, 2016
Everything is just a little better than it needs to be in this ambling comedy about a spirited family holiday gathering. The formula is an old chestnut, but writer/director David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) and the on-point African-American cast make these family squabbles and sentiments go down with the same smooth, tasty ease of the sweet potato pie that becomes one of the film’s central plot points.
Patriarch Walter Meyers (Glover, so good at wrenching emotional notes from stalwart actions) is facing his first Christmas by himself after the death of his beloved wife of many decades. Alone in the big house where they raised their four children, he summons his now-grown offspring to return home for the holidays. Each comes with his or her own baggage in tow, as well as spouses, grandchildren, old resentments, and new gripes. Also joining them is Walter’s sister-in-law May (Mo’Nique, in fine form), a campy backup singer who’s traveled the world many times over with all the top bands. All of it plays out at a leisurely pace that allows us to get to know the characters and feel for their individual issues. Sparks fly, genuine laughs ensue, standard-issue dance sequences and family football games take place, and a homeless shelter is saved from urban renewal. The five days of togetherness are filled with challenges and enjoyment, and if the cast is willing, I’m sure other Meyers family reunions will follow, although none is likely to be as sweet as this sugar plum.