This Christmas

Tyler Perry is going to wind up with a monopoly on mainstream African-American dramas if quality alternatives aren't produced—and soon. This mushy, bloated holiday-album snapshot of an L.A. family with excess baggage, by writer-director Preston A. Whitmore II, is not that alternative. Soapy to the extreme, This Christmas takes place over a preposterously chaotic three-day weekend under the roof of divorced matriarch Ma Dear (Loretta Devine), as mulish jazz-musician son Quentin (Idris Elba) resurfaces for the first time in years with angry bookies in pursuit, and AWOL-soldier son Claude (Columbus Short) lands himself in jail for pulling a gun to defend the honor of the pregnant white wife his family doesn't know about. The cast has spirit, but the dialogue and situations are phonier than the Yule log on TV.

 
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