Starring: John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodríguez, Debra Messing, Jay Hernandez, Marcia Wright, Alfred Molina
Director: Alfredo De Villa
Screenwriters: Rick Najera, Ted Perkin, Alison Swan
MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Reviewers Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
I dreaded seeing “Nothing Like the Holidays,” not because I don’t like movies about Latino culture (this movie focuses on a Puerto Rican family), but because most holiday movies stink, in my opinion. However, despite a slow start (a couple people actually walked out), this movie was fun, interesting, and, best of all, real. Instead of a roster of perfect looking actors, bad jokes, and bad storylines (I’m thinking of the last movie I watched—“Four Christmases,”) this movie had real people and was, if not hilarious, definitely funny at times.
“Nothing Like the Holidays” did, of course, have beautiful people in it, including the unsuccessful Hollywood actress (played by Vanessa Ferlito) and her soon-to-be boyfriend, Ozzy (played by Jay Hernandez). But it also had an older, overweight father figure (Edy, played by Alfred Molina), a still good looking and sprite, but aged, mother (Anna, played by Elizabeth Pena), a hilarious unattractive “cousin” who was late everywhere because he spent so much time on grooming (Luis Guzman), a token white girl trying to fit into the family (played by Debra Messing), and a whole roster of other fun, real characters.
Although there wasn’t enough film time to fully develop each character, which left them seeming a bit shallow, and while some of the storylines were old themes, this film was still charming and enjoyable. My favorite parts of the film were the heart-warming interactions between the siblings, and the daily interactions that took place.
One particularly funny scene had the men trying to take down the front yard tree with a chain saw. Each of the male characters has a go at the tree, while the women sit on the front porch betting on who is going to get hurt first. There is much bantering and a lot of really funny machismo occurring, and despite Herculean efforts, the tree doesn’t budge.
This is a movie that doesn’t shy away from portraying people as real, with both endearing and irritating qualities. While one minute, Mauricio (played by John Leguizamo), was a total jerk, screaming at his dad for cheating on his mom, in another scene he’s shown doing a totally ridiculous dance that has the whole community laughing. In yet another scene, he’s trying to make amends with his wife, who he clearly adores and wants to protect from his often disapproving family.
The movie also delves lightly into Puerto Rican culture, where community and neighbors are portrayed as central to life (the neighborhood caroling scene was refreshing) and where people don’t shy away their imperfections. I appreciated Director Alfredo De Villa’s ability to celebrate the real, and I think this is a nice departure from Hollywood’s insistence on valuing perfection. This film is definitely worth the price of admission and is a good one for adults of all ages and older children.