I’m reviewing these two flicks together because although they focus on two different cultures living in the USA the storylines certainly overlap. This Christmas centres on a large African American family living in California whereas Nothing Like the Holidays focuses on a pretty dysfunctional Puerto Rican clan hailing from Chicago. Both families have many issues to deal with… The result is that neither film fails to make me laugh and cry, often almost simultaneously.
As always, I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of the plots. Instead, if you like Christmas family dramas I would urge you to invest in a copy of both films. I love these films because they are filled with oomph. The characters are witty, vibrant, larger-than-life and there is a real sense of warmth throughout both families in spite of their issues. A big similarity between the clans is the secrecy within them. Weirdly, both films feature the return of a son who has spent time overseas in the military. Okay, so there are some differences. Claude from This Christmas actually goes AWOL which brings its own problems especially when he has also secretly married a white girl (shock, horror) who is, unbeknownst to him, 6 weeks pregnant. She’s desperate to be accepted into the family although he is a little wary of breaking the news. Of course, once the cat’s out of the bag, she’s welcomed wholeheartedly. Jesse, alternatively returns from Iraq with multiple wounds both physical and psychological. Not only does he have to deal with the relationship he sacrificed for the army, he also needs to accept that he’s next in line to run the family bodega. The bottom line is that these are just two examples of very real issues that families need to deal with regardless of it being the festive period.
For me, these films seem to have it all: squabbling siblings, adultery, divorce, overbearing family members, deep rooted resentment and guilt, dancing, Christmas traditions and great sound tracks. If you fancy something light hearted, I suggest you opt for ‘This Christmas’ because even the worst family problems are dealt with in an almost fun loving way. ‘Nothing Like the Holidays’ is definitely a little more real. Nothing is really sugar coated; you see each character trying to deal with their own reality without finding any quick fix that would normally be expected in a Christmas film.
Where’s the product placement? I didn’t focus too hard on this, don’t know why. The one that kept jumping out at me was Rolling Rock (Yuck) in California and Bacardi in Chicago (Yum). What can I say, it distracted me.
I bought these two films by chance and now they are the two flicks that I most look forward to at this time of year.