Continuing the Christmas posts with a modern classic. This Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas movies and that is in no small part due to the awesome soundtrack!
This Christmas is a re-imagining of the admittedly cliché, “Coming Home for Christmas” story. With a fantastic soundtrack, all star-cast, and a lot of adult humor it distinguishes itself from the pack. The movie follows the Whitfield family as they all begin to come home for Christmas and have to confront problems within the family that have been swept under the rug for the past year.
The director, Preston A. Whitmore II does a great job of handling the big cast. As the viewer, you get the feeling that you understand the family dynamics and the reasons behind why each of the characters act the way they do. Whitmore gives us information about the internal conflicts among the family through their dialogue with each other and a few over dramatized physical cues.
Ex. Malcolm and Kelli’s relationship…every time Malcolm or Kelli says something they basically have a d*** measuring contest!
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The Family Dynamic
Shirley Ann (Ma’Dere): Played by Loretta Devine, Ma’Dere is the matriarch of the Whitfield family. She lives in the house where all of her children grew up, with her youngest son and boyfriend. After inviting all of her children back to celebrate the holidays she has to balance all the different personalities and problems that they bring with them.
She also gets the opportunity to confront some of the tensions that have surrounded Quentin Jr., Joe, and Baby regarding the departure of Quentin Sr. as well as the role that music has played in tearing apart their family.
Quentin Sr: The first husband of Ma’Dere and father of all of the Whitfield siblings. He was also an accomplished musician.Though we do not see him in the movie the lasting effects of him abandoning the family are evident in many of the interactions of other characters.
Ma’Dere states that the reason he chose to leave the family was to “follow his music.” Because of this she hates that Quentin Jr. loves his music so much and is also furious with Baby when she finds out that he wants to sing and eventually start a singing career.
Joe Black: Joe is Ma’Dere’s boyfriend who lives with her and Baby at the Whitfield home. Joe has been living in the home for about 7 years, but every year at Christmas he takes all of his stuff to the garage and checks into a hotel so that he doesn’t cause any problems with the the Whitfield siblings, specifically Quentin Jr. who believes that his mother should not be with anyone, but his father.
Instead of getting angry, Joe humbly allows this situation to go on for 7 years allowing the different members of the family to eventually get used to his presence and invite him into the fold. Of course the last to do so is Quentin Jr. who eventually comes to terms with the fact that Ma’Dere wants Joe in her life and that he has to deal with that. He also comes to respect Joe by the end of the movie after he sees the lengths that the man is willing to go to, to protect the Whitfield family.
Quentin Jr: Played by Idris Elba, Quentin Jr. is the oldest of the Whitfield siblings. Though Quentin Jr. almost never makes it home to see the family, as the oldest Whitfield he became the defacto man of the house when Quentin Sr. left the family to pursue his music. The entire family began to rely on him and still does to this day for making big decisions, such as whether or not to sell the family-owned dry cleaner. However like his father before Quentin Jr. ended up leaving the house to pursue his dream of music leaving a hole that was eventually filled by Joe Black. Quentin Jr. has resented him ever since. This Christmas Quentin Jr.’s money borrowing problems have also followed him home in the form of two bookies that threaten him and his family throughout the movie.
One of my favorite parts of the movie was when the bookies threaten his sisters he swallows his pride and resentment for Joe and tells him to stay with Ma’Dere. He realizes that the burden of being the sole protector if the family is not one that he has to carry and that Joe is also someone that has his mother’s and the rest of his family’s best interest at heart.
Michael (Baby): Played by Chris Brown, Baby is the youngest of the Whitfield siblings. Baby still lives at home with Ma’Dere and Joe and is the closest to them. As such he feels that he has to hide his love of music from his mother. Played by Chris Brown he is of course an amazing singer! Ma’Dere understandably hates the music industry because it has taken away her husband and her oldest son.
Baby tries to hide his talent for singing from his mother but she eventually finds out and is angry with him. She comes around by the end of the movie though because she realizes that Baby has to live his life, and shouldn’t be held back by her feelings.
Kelli: Kelli is quite the know it all and probably the most narcissistic of the Whitfield bunch, matched only by Lisa’s husband Malcolm. She is very successful and likes to remind her less “traditionally” successful sister of this whenever they get into fights.
Even though she has a very abrasive way of showing her affection Kelli’s tough love eventually allows Lisa to get the strength that she needs to leave her husband. She loves her sister and wants the best for her.
Lisa: Played by Regina King, Lisa brings her husband and two kids to the house for Christmas. From the first scene they have together we can see that there are some issues with their marriage. Malcolm treats her horribly, belittling her at every possible junction while also taking everything she does for granted.
Malcolm wants Lisa to convince her family to sell the dry cleaners that they own so that he will have money for an investment. He tells Lisa that this will allow them to live a better life but in reality, he plans to use that money to start a life with the woman that he has been cheating with. Though Lisa and her sister Kelli tend to be at odds with each other at the end of the day they still love each other and Kelli helps Lisa see that it is time to leave her husband Malcolm.
Melanie (Mel): Mel is the second youngest Whitfield child. She brings her new boyfriend Devan to the house for Christmas. And that’s about all I have to say about the two of them. To be honest they didn’t do much. Things would not have been that different if both of them were cut from the movie!
Claude: Coming home for Christmas this year was very difficult for Claude because his leave from the military was denied. AWOL (absent with out leave) from his military duties Claude returns to his childhood home. However, this is not his only secret he also was recently married and has not told his family yet. Sandi, Claude’s wife stayed at a hotel for most of the movie because Claude didn’t know how to tell his family.
(Sandi is white, and unbeknownst to both Claude and his family she is 6 weeks pregnant.)
Claude probably brought the most problems this Christmas. After defending Sandi, while at a club with his brothers and sisters, Claude is thrown in jail for skipping out on his military duties and it looks like he may not be able to see his family on Christmas.
The movie explores what happens when all of these diverse and lives collide under one roof for the holiday season.
This is a great movie for the family to watch together anytime, and even more so during the holiday season. There are a few too many Christmas puns in there for me, but that might be because I’ve seen it so many times.
I give this movie a J-Free score of 6/10!*
*7/10 if you watch it between December 18th and December 31st!
What did you think of This Christmas? What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Let me know in the comments below!