Nothing Like the Holidays

Nothing Like the Holidays movie poster
MPAA rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Some old and new conflicts arise when family members (including John Leguizamo and Freddy Rodriguez) reunite in Chicago to celebrate the holidays and their brother's safe return from overseas combat.
Starring: Debra Messing, John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodríguez, Vanessa Ferlito, Jay Hernandez
Director: Alfredo De Villa
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Editorial Review

"Nothing Like the Holidays" lives up to its generic title. Lifting several pages from the Tyler Perry playbook, it tells a familiar story of a Puerto Rican American family in Chicago that sorts out domestic problems over Christmas.

Anna (Elizabeth Peña) and Edy Rodriguez (Alfred Molina) are ready to welcome their three grown children home. Jesse (Freddy Rodríguez) is coming back from a tour of duty in Iraq. Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his wife, Sarah (Debra Messing), are in from their high-powered New York jobs. Rox (Vanessa Ferlito) is a struggling actress in Los Angeles. Cousins, old boyfriends, girlfriends and enemies are tossed in, too, along with suspected infidelities, a health crisis, the horrors of war, the son who has to take over the family bodega and an all-encompassing desire for grandchildren.

The various conflicts and their resolutions contain no real surprises: They've all been part of recent holiday-themed films. The Chicago locations are properly cold and snowy. The interiors of houses, bars and stores have a realistic, lived-in look. Beyond one scene of neighborhood caroling, the ethnic aspects are minimal.

The script by Rick Najera and Alison Swan is unfocused and flabby with several relatively pointless scenes that are ended by convenient cellphone calls.

As "I'm not gay" cousin Johnny, Luis Guzmán provides a bit of much-needed comic relief. The ensemble cast boasts some of the finest actors in the business. They do their best to breathe life into the stereotypes, but they simply don't have enough to work with.

-- Mike Mayo (Dec. 12, 2008)

Contains language and adult subject matter.