Repurposing one of Danny Glover’s most famous character quotes I have to say, “It’s too early for this shit.” Almost Christmas comes out before the holiday spirit that would make this film bearable has even had a chance to awaken inside of us. With the election just ended, Christmas still over a month away, and Thanksgiving close at hand, the yuletide cheer hasn’t arrived, even though we’re in desperate need of it.
Writer/Director David E. Talbert delivers a film made for a very specific cultural demographic, but the message of family is always universal. In one of the best films Talbert has ever made, he reminds us that almost doesn’t count. He relies too heavily on stereotypes and rehashing jokes for his humor to be effective. Hearing the joke once is slightly funny, but revisiting it in different scenarios makes it much less so. One of the most memorable moments in the film doesn’t even belong to the film. I laughed the loudest when Danny Glover revisited his most iconic line from Lethal Weapon. It was the most entertaining moment, but by the time it is delivered we are mid-film climax and just happy it is almost over.
A great majority of the film relies on tropes. There is the token white male there only as disposable comedic relief as he foolishly tries to reappropriate a culture he doesn’t understand and is not directly part of. Then we have the feminist female figure put in completely improbable situations for the sole reason of getting a laugh and to shame her views. This part was the most problematic for me, both in the execution and treatment of the character. They turned Rachel (Gabrielle Union) into a living stereotype of how the laughable Men’s Rights group view feminists. This toxic representation of feminism is disgusting and is just used to explain why the character of Rachel hasn’t found a man to take care of her.
Almost Christmas’s visual style is so typical that it is almost unidentifiable from any other generic holiday film. The crisp holiday hues are there with the idyllic snow-covered terrain. There is no stylization to the point that every scene, including most of the exteriors, are done on closed set. The completely uneven pacing forces you to focus more on the sets than the characters. The fake sentiments are only accentuated by the fake snow.
Every single character is a stereotype or is so overdone that you wouldn’t think of serving it to your dog for holiday dinner. We have seen much better performances out of every actor, so we can only assume that their performances were part of the chosen aesthetic for the film. It’s hard to imagine why they even included a turkey with their Christmas dinner when each of the actors is giving us so much ham with the portrayal of their characters. The only relief in Almost Christmas is comedic and comes in the form of Mo’Nique and J. B. Smoove, who add a natural form of humor in an otherwise forced production.
Although it’s not even close to Christmas, Almost Christmas wants to start off your holiday season while some of you have your Halloween decorations still up. There is a bit of holiday charm in this film, and a story about family coming together after a big loss, but it is buried in a series of slapstick situations and heavy-handed holiday schmaltz