The recently-released sleeper hit "This Christmas
" too closely resembled a bland made-for-TV movie, but it was pleasant enough for what it was. Though only worthy enough to receive a two-star review from yours truly, it is looking positively astounding in comparison to the sugary, teeth-rottening, disingenuous "The Perfect Holiday." About as appetizing as a candy cane laced with arsenic, this hoary piece of seasonal dreck starts off on the wrong foot with an awkward main titles sequence featuring some terribly unfortunate animated representations of Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard, then goes downhill from there. Every time the viewer thinks to themselves that the writing can't get any more pea-brained and the proceedings can't get any more embarrassing for all involved, they do.
All single mother Nancy (Gabrielle Union) wants for Christmas is for a stranger to walk up to her and pay her a compliment, no strings attached, and so that is exactly what young daughter Emily (Khail Bryant) asks Santa for at the local mall. Santa, it turns out, is Benjamin (Morris Chestnut), a near-penniless, naturally gorgeous aspiring musician who has taken the job of jolly St. Nick as a means of receiving a much-needed paycheck. When Benjamin follows through with Emily's wish, Nancy is taken aback by this kind stranger and pursues him. Their relationship will need some mending if it's going to workBenjamin has lied about his lowly profession, lied again when his demo track is bought and recorded by Nancy's rap artist ex-husband J. Jizzy (Charlie Murphy), and is up against Nancy's older son, John-John (Malik Hammond), who thinks none too highly of a new man in his mom's life.
"The Perfect Holiday" has been directed by Lance Rivera (2004's "The Cookout
") with the subtlety of a banging gong and the charm of a picked scab. Oh, sure, the film wants to be sweet and fit for the whole family, but it is so artificial and reliant on imbecilic plotting that the experience of watching it is maddening rather than enjoyable. The first and most major flaw is the story itself, revolving around a love story between two people who are not afforded a single scene to talk and get to know each other and who do not share an even remote tinge of chemistry. The one chance for a genuine conversation between them is turned into a brief montage of mouth flaps and smiles while music drowns their words out. Even more disparagingly, Benjamin dishonestly tells Nancy that he is an office supplies salesman for no reason other than that the screenplay demands it. What, exactly, would be wrong with telling her the truththat he wants to work in the music industry and is playing Santa as a way of making some money in the interim? That isn't nearly as embarrassing as Nancy's reality, since she is portrayed as a woman with no aspirations or goals, but happily lives in a mansion paid for by alimony checks. Because she is a female, though, it is viewed as okay for her to be written as someone who lives off of her loutish ex-husband's wealth.
The monotonous idiocy of the plot doesn't end there. When Benjamin's song is picked up by J. Jizzy's record label, he is afraid to tell Nancy because of her past relationship with the rap mogul. Why? Plain and simple, because there needs to be further conflict and the filmmakers couldn't think of anything more plausible. Throw in two feuding guardian angel typesthe virtuous Mrs. Christmas (Queen Latifah) and the mischievous Bah Humbug (Terrence Howard)who show up now and again in a variety of ridiculous costumes to comment on the story; fake CGI snow that constantly falls from the sky but never lays on the ground; an "Are We There Yet?
"-inspired set-piece where John-John plays a series of pranks on mom's suitor Benjamin; a ridiculous climactic moment where a child falls off of a tricycle and lands at the top of a department store Christmas tree, and an illogical story point in which a Christmas record is being launched on December 24 and won't even be released until after the holidays, and what you have is a motion picture made by people who clearly don't have a clue what they are doing.
As Nancy, the potentially charismatic Gabrielle Union (2005's "The Honeymooners
") continues to sell herself short in disposable lead roles in bad movies. As Benjamin, Morris Chestnut (2007's "The Game Plan
") is unchallenged in the kind of romantic comedy part he has had countless times before. And, dropping in for no reason other than name value, Queen Latifah (2007's "Hairspray
") and Terrence Howard (2007's "August Rush
") humiliate themselves.
"The Perfect Holiday" is a title that couldn't be further from the truth. Imperfect in every way and far from festive, the film lacks any semblance of wit or good cheer. Intelligence and sincerity, meanwhile, are in low demand. Unlucky audience members who take a chance on this lump of coal this holiday season or in years to come are guaranteed only one thing: a very crummy Christmas.