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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nothing Like the Holidays

Posted on Wed, Dec 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Nothing Like the Holidays
Director: Alfredo De Villa
Screenwriter: Alfredo De Villa
Cast: John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodriguez, Jay Hernandez, Melonie Diaz, Alfred Molina
Release Date: 2008-12-24
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Film

Come holiday time, the number of broad, family-friendly comedies usually spikes like Santa’s cholesterol, but the families engaged in yuletide slapstick almost always have surnames like Krank, Stone, or Griswold. To put it bluntly, they’re as white as Christmas snow.

For Latinos who can’t relate to Ben Affleck dropping a ham in Surviving Christmas (a slippery tamale might be a different story) or Matthew Broderick incinerating firs in Deck the Halls, Nothing Like the Holidays offers an off-key rendition of “Feliz Navidad.” The wacky dysfunctional familial love gets a little Puerto Rican flare, but the result is the same lame cookie-cutter X-mas fare, despite a slightly more serious tone and a solid performance by Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under, Planet Terror).

Rodriguez plays Jesse, a soldier who returns home to Chicago after a tour in Iraq and finds his ex-
girlfriend Marissa (Diaz) has moved on with her life, and his parents (Molina and Elizabeth Peña) are getting divorced after 36 years of marriage. The news of a pending separation doesn’t sit well with anyone, including Jesse’s brother Mauricio (Leguizamo), a successful Manhattan lawyer, and his workaholic wife Sarah (Debra Messing), who is loved for learning the family’s cultural traditions, but frowned upon for not popping out boricua grandbabies.

There are plenty more family members, but debut screenwriters Alison Swan and Rick Najera seem to have sculpted the script from the blueprint of a tiresome telenovela. Everyone wants screen time, but no character is really interesting enough to deserve it. The Christmas comedy might be dressed in different packaging this year, but a pair of socks is a lame gift no matter how colorful the wrapping.

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