Published Dec 11, 2008Nothing says "happy holidays" like the impending death of a loved one, an imminent divorce and some emotional damage care of the war in Iraq, or at least that's what Nothing Like the Holidays seems to think. With a woefully similar storyline to the equally guileless The Family Stone, only with more awkward shots of actors in unpadded tighty-whities, repetitive homophobic jokes, aimless conversation and machinery as a metaphor for the mighty penis, Holidays becomes tiring at the ten-minute mark. It struggles even with a simplistic formula, plodding relentlessly until insoluble issues are of course resolved with glib simplifications and nauseatingly reductive character modifications.
Perhaps some will enjoy such cinematic craftsmanship as Luis Guzman's particular shtick as a maraca-shaking family friend who likes to refer to the children as homos (it's supposed to be funny because they're not actually gay), or Debra Messing's Type-A feminism in contrast to an antiquated Puerto-Rican family that seems most at ease while discussing genitalia. However, most will just want the movie to end so they can at least finish their holiday shopping and watch something slightly more nuanced, like an episode of Jag.
Should anyone care, the film essentially follows a family dinner that reunites Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez), who has just returned from Iraq, Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), an up-and-coming actress, Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his wife Sarah (Debra Messing), the successful New York couple, with parents Edy and Anna Rodriguez (Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Pena). After some initial exchanges and crude double-entendres, the kids learn that mom and dad intend to divorce, which is just fine with world-wearied Jesse but the end of the world for the whinier Mauricio, whose relationship with Sarah is going through a similar struggle.
There is absolutely nothing new here, aside from some traditional door-to-door carolling, which is truthfully quite frightening, but the holiday formula exists for the most part, even if it is handled incompetently. (Alliance)