NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS
**1/2 (out of 5)
December 12, 2008
Alfred Molina as EDY RODRIGUEZ
Elizabeth Pena as ANNA RODRIGUEZ
Freddy Rodriguez as JESSE RODRIGUEZ
Luis Guzman as JOHNNY
Jay Hernandez as OZZY
John Leguizamo as MAURICIO RODRIGUEZ
Debra Messing as SARAH RODRIGUEZ
Vanessa Ferlito as ROXANNA RODRIGUEZ
Melonie Diaz as MARISSA
Directed by: Alfredo De Villa
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Each year, amid the string of heartwarming holiday features, Hollywood gives us at least one or two films about a dysfunctional family Christmas. This year, we’ve got two of them. The first was “Four Christmases,” which was pretty funny. This has been followed up with “Nothing Like the Holidays,” which isn’t necessarily as entertaining as “Four Christmases” was, but it still gives the viewer a nice dose of caustic holiday family cheer.
“Nothing Like the Holidays” follows the many members of the Rodriguez family, a Puerto Rican clan who is gathering for the holidays. The kids are coming home to their overbearing mother. One comes home from being injured in Iraq. Another comes home with his classy (and decidedly non-Puerto Rican) wife. The third is the only daughter, coming home from a struggling non-career in Hollywood.
Over the course of a couple days, the family fights all around, causes problems and eventually makes up as best they can. We’ve seen this kind of thing done before, usually done better, in films like “The Family Stone.” However, since every family on the face of the Earth fights (and many, even moreso during the holidays), there should be something for anyone to relate to in this movie… even if you aren’t Puerto Rican.
The strength of this film is its cast. It’s got some fine actors in it, particularly Alfred Molina and John Leguizamo (who takes a surprisingly comedic back seat to several other characters). Luis Guzman, whom you’ll recognize by face if not by name, has most of the funny lines and pretty much steals any scene he’s in.
Although he’s from New York and is of Mexican descent, director Alfredo De Villa lays on the Puerto Rican culture pretty thick with this film. In fact, it’s so steeped in Latino stereotypes (including a character who drives a Cadillac and runs an electronics store, a gang member, a neighborhood that sports Puerto Rican flags on everything from scarves to car magnets, and a nagging mother begging for grandkids while cooking with plantains) that if a non-Latino made the film, he’d be strung up.
You may not connect with this film culturally, but most people will find something to relate to. The problems aren’t within the general concept or the cast but rather in the been-there-done-that feel the movie has. It borrows storylines from many different films, and not just the holiday ones.
We have the son returning from Iraq, which we have seen done to death this past year. We have the fish-out-of-water character that Debra Messing plays, which is a softer version of Sarah Jessica Parker’s role in “The Family Stone.” And we have the former gang member who seeks revenge on the punk who killed his brother.
My thoughts on this film are about as middle-of-the-road as I can get. It floats in the middle of being one that I’d recommend and one that I’d say to wait until video. Still, taken against the backdrop of the busy holiday season, you might not want to battle crowds at the mall to catch this flick.