A new comedy from writer/director David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) and producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like a Man series, This Christmas), Almost Christmas tells the festive story of a beloved patriarch who asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honor that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.
Every year around the holidays, there seems to be barrage of holiday-centric films. Some are dramas, some are comedies, and some are down-right vulgar. Every so often, there's even a horror holiday film that graces us with its presence. Needless to say, it's rather difficult to tell a lot of these films apart, as most of them have the usual tropes and storylines that end nicely wrapped up in a holiday package. You can add to this long list of holiday films the recent 'Almost Christmas', which is written and directed by David E. Talbert ('Baggage Claim').
The story has been done over and over again, countless times as a big group of family members all come together for the holidays to air their grievances with one another, which all culminates in a warm-hearted conclusion that makes you want to snuggle up by the fire and roast those chestnuts. The film follows Walter Meyers (Danny Glover), who lost his wife a year ago and is still trying to pick up the pieces. It's Christmas time now and he wants his four kids home for the holidays with their spouses and kids.
Everyone of Walter's kids seem to be successful in life, but as the film goes on, they are all having hardships, ranging from cheating spouses, drug problems, and sibling rivalry. Walter's wife's sister, Aunt May (Mo'Nique) enters the holiday scene taking up some of the slack with her recent dead sister in offering blunt advice, jokes, and criticisms to her family. There isn't anything here we haven't seen before, but the film is actually full of heart and soul, that keeps you surprisingly engaged with every character. Sure, there is some thick cheese here and there, but you can definitely tell the actor's had some great chemistry and had a wonderful time, which is evident in several scenes.
The stellar cast includes Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, John Michael Higgins, Romany Malco, Nicole Ari Parker, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jessie T. Usher, Keri Hilson, and DC Young Fly, and all turn in great performances, some of which tug at the heart strings. Again, 'Almost Christmas' doesn't change the holiday genre nor are there a lot of original storylines to be found here, but there is a light-hearted touch through the film that makes you feel good, which is sometimes all you need to enjoy a movie.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Almost Christmas' comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc and a DVD copy from Universal that is Region A Locked. There is an insert for a digital download code included here too. The discs are housed in a hard, blue plastic case with a cardboard sleeve.
'Almost Christmas' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This is a great looking video presentation from Universal with excellent detail and vibrant colors throughout. The detail is sharp and vivid from start to finish with great closeups that reveal individual hairs on the actor's faces, makeup blemishes and every detail in the delicious looking food on the table.
Wider shots never go soft either, giving the film's interior setting some great depth. Colors bright and pop right off screen. The color scheme is rather warm with great browns, oranges, and reds that look exquisite. The green in the Christmas trees also look excellent. Black levels are deep and inky, while the skin tones are natural. There were no signs of aliasing, banding, or video noise, leaving his video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and sounds great for a holiday drama-comedy. That being said, this is mostly a front-heavy track that has great dialogue that is clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills. The sound effects are realistic and loud and have some great directionality, whether it be people cooking in the kitchen or a dysfunctional holiday decoration.
Ambient noises of people chattering sound good and come from the rear speakers. There is some heft on the low end with the fantastic music of the film that delivers some great bass without crossing into rocky territory. This is a solid audio track, even if it's on the front heavy side.
Audio Commentary - Writer/director David E. Talbert, film editor Troy Takaki, and assistant editor Gene Lewis Jr. come together and discuss making the movie. There isn't a lot of technical information on the film, but rather a lot of praise and stories from the set. If you liked the film, you'll enjoy this commentary.
Home for the Holidays (HD, 19 Mins.) - Here are five different segments that cover the production of the film, complete with interviews with the cast and crew and on-set footage.
The Director Diaries (HD, 5 Mins.) - Here is a montage of some behind the scenes footage of the bigger scenes from the five week shoot of the film that is narrated by the director.
Aunt May Unplugged (HD, 6 Mins.) - This is the unused improv'd lines and dialogue that Mo'Nique used in the film.
Even More Gags (HD, 3 Mins.) - Bonus gag reel that was not included in the film's credit sequence.
Walter Meyers' Sweet Potato Pie (HD, 2 Mins.) - Danny Glover delivers his secret recipe. Sadly, it's not with Mel Gibson.
My Favorite Scene Is (HD, 5 Mins.) - The cast and crew talk about their favorite scene in the film, which happens to be one of the dinner scenes.
Working With Actors (HD 3 Mins.) - The director discusses working with his actors and some of the ways he enhances their performances.
'Almost Christmas' isn't exactly anything new. In fact, you've probably seen an iteration of this film a dozen times over, but the cast is dynamic and fun, and the heart and soul of the story really brings it all together, even if there is some cheese to it. The video and audio presentations are both great and the extras are worth watching and quite fun. Recommended around the holidays.