Movies about the Christmas Holiday tone are a dime-a-dozen. Truthfully, most movies have the same plot clichés, themes and Holiday cheers. Director Alfredo De Villa's "Nothing Like the Holidays" is nothing different; family issues, disappointments and hope abound in this dramedy. It does have a very strong Puerto Rican theme to it; with full emphasis on Puerto Rican which I enjoyed, it was something different. The film is directed by Alfredo De Villa who was responsible for the internationally acclaimed “Adrift in Manhattan” in 2007.
There is nothing like Christmas in the Rodriguez household, as parents Edy (Alfred Molina) and Anna (Elizabeth Pena) is welcoming their children back for the Christmas festivities. Special welcome is given to their son, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) since he is coming home after a tour in Iraq, Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) is struggling to make ends meet in Hollywood, and Mauricio (John Leguizamo) is arriving with his career-minded wife Sarah (Debra Messing). Old Friends are also coming to visit including Jesse's old flame, Marissa (Melanie Diaz) who has moved on, Johnny (Luis Guzman) and Ozzy (Jay Hernandez) who works in Edy's bodega. Brought together more by Holiday obligation than actual "wanting to be there"; family secrets and brewing feuds begin to threaten the enjoyment of the holidays...
"Nothing Like the Holidays" wears its Puerto Rican themes like a badge which made me very interested. The viewer is privy to some of the holiday traditions observed by the fine people of Puerto Rico. The cultural disconnection may be tempting at first (I easily connected to their traditions since the Filipino culture is heavily influenced by Spain), but the film does manage to warm up with the familiar themes of the Christmas season. Actually, I was a little more curious as to what other traditions they have and after awhile, I kind of wished that it got more into those cultural traditions than the clichéd familial trappings of a holiday movie. But I guess, the filmmakers wanted a holiday movie that they assume to be a ‘holiday’ movie.
There is nothing original in the manner things are set up in the movie. The film's characters all have their baggages to carry and the film's screenplay goes back and forth from humor to dramatic moments. There was a couple of plot elements that had potential; the subplots with Jesse and Ozzy was interesting enough but the film has too many performers vying for the limited screen time. The complications that gets revealed in the film's first half can get to be a little unrealistic, after all, how many things can possibly go wrong in this limited time frame but they do. The airing of grievances appear to be a little far-fetched to occur in such a short period of time (maybe my family dinners are more civilized?) that it would be hard to connect with those grievances. Not to get me wrong, it is possible, but I guess the set ups were a little too heavy-handed for me. I felt that the film was too short to say the least, that the blending of humor and drama was a little too rushed; the viewer had no time to absorb all the intended emotions of the script. It would've been a better move to stick to one theme but De Villa exhausts his viewers into pitching in too many subplots and then leaving them half-baked. The film feels like it is in a rush to cover too much ground that it ends up really going nowhere, it proved almost to be insignificant.
The acting by Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Pena are very charismatic and effective; heck even Debra Messing was pretty good as the lone Caucasian woman in the Puerto Rican household. I suppose credit needs to be given to the performers but truth be told, Leguizamo is too old and Pena too young to be his mother (4 Years apart in real life?!). This is a major goof on the part of the direction. However, Pena and Molina does save the film's clichéd script by the potential divorce subplot and the two manages to convince that the situation is real. Despite some of my complaints, the cast do manage to pull it off by carrying most of the film's burden.
"Nothing Like the Holidays" can be fun to watch at times but I feel that the raw talent in the film is somewhat wasted because of the manner by which that there was too many subplots and that really didn't go anywhere. It covered too much ground without careful development and viewers may have issues connecting to the characters, as their depths are merely touched upon with the limited screen time. The film can be endearing and it does have a lot of qualities; problem is, it just couldn't breathe and the direction struggles to really find its footing. Then again, I guess it may be this way on some households...? Just maybe…
Rental [3- Out of 5 Stars] This review was originally posted in amazon.com on Nov. 9, 2009 and has been re-written with more details for Movie Hype.
*** out of **** If one can get past the countless remakes, modernized adaptations, and clichéd love stories that tend to identify with most Christmas fare in the service of film; a film such as "Nothing Like the Holidays" might just come off as, oh I don't know, refreshing. It's a good old fashion family comedy; taking place during the holidays and dealing with a very big family. And while this is, in theory, an ordinary family - how many recent Christmas films are composed … more
This review was written before my mother passed. NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS When watching this movie I noticed something crazy going on and it hit home with me a little, well more so than that. This movie more or less is actually happing to me right now, so that may affect how much I like or dislike this film. This may be a spoiler so you may want to turn away now if you don't want to know. But as of now during Christmas my family has come together … more
This isn't a feel-good holiday movie. In fact, you kind of feel bad for this family - and the movie. It's a really odd and uncomfortable assortment of hoodlums, war vet, high-powered hedge-fund managers, and bickering parents. At points, the movie seems to gel and convey a poignant story - particular Debra Messing and her father-in-law. But at other times, it seems as if "Nothing like the Holidays" is torn between several themes and was emotionally confusing. At the end of the day, the movie just … more
Heartwarming holiday tail about Christmas with the Rodriguez family. The entire clan has gathered in Chicago to spend the holidays at the family homestead; one son is returning from a tour of duty in Iraq; the other "successful" son is trying to balance his wife's career aspirations with his desire for a child and his mother's yearning for a grandchild, while the Rodriguez daughter returns home from Hollywood with admissions that her life is not as successful and glamourous as otherwise thought...all … more
I'm a holiday movie addict. I love anything set to Christmas time. Well almost anything. What I don't care for are movies that rely on time-tested story material with only minor changes based on family ethnicity and general dynamics. I'm a realist; many American holiday tales look the same from family to family regardless of cultural heritage. Having been raised in several ethnically diverse households, the biggest differences lie in what we eat, when … more
I think that Christmas movies deserve to be regarded with a separate set of criteria than that applied to the rest of cinema. If the movie revolves around the Christmas holiday, we're likely to forgive the extra cliche' or manipulative tear-jerking moment that might just cost a non-holiday ensemble comedy a star or two. So with that said, Nothing Like the Holidays might just be worth adding to your collection of DVDs. How better to amuse the out-of-town family guests (or their adolescent kids) during … more
Alfred De Villa (WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, YELLOW) directs this tale of a Puerto Rican family gathering at their family home in Chicago's Humboldt Park for the holidays. On the surface, the Rodriguez family has much to be thankful for this Christmas. Eldest son Mauricio (John Leguizamo) is a lawyer on the verge of making partner and his wife is a Wall Street dynamo (Debra Messing), daughter Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) is a movie star, and youngest son Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) has just returned home from a tour in Iraq. For the first time in years, the three siblings will all be home for the holidays, and their parents, Anna (Elizabeth Peqa) and Eduardo (Alfred Molina), are elated. Except that Mauricio's wife isn't Puerto Rican, and despite her mother-in-law's constant pleas, she's in no rush to have a baby. Meanwhile, Roxanna is more of a struggling actress then a star, and Jesse is having a hard time adjusting to regular life and facing Marissa (Melonie Diaz), the "one that got away" when he enlisted.IfNothing Like the Holidaysappears to have little in common with Frank Capra's small-town perennial It's a Wonderful Life, Alfredo De Villa's urban dramedy also mixes the bitter with the sweet. The fireworks begin when Eduardo and Anna Rodriguez (Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Peña) welcome their Puerto Rican brood to celebrate Christmas in Chicago: Iraq War veteran Jesse (Illinois native Freddy Rodríguez), struggling actress Roxanna ...