(Im)Perfect Holiday

Posted: 12/12/2007 05:42 PM EST

Posted Dec. 12, 2007 -- If there was ever a perfect holiday, the film “Perfect Holiday” certainly doesn’t come close to actually being it.

Lance Rivera, the same brother that brought us that forgettable backyard funfest called “The Cookout,” has assembled a talented cast for this holiday-themed romantic comedy that hits theaters on Wednesday, but sadly he’s given them nothing to work with. And for the audience it’s like getting that lump of coal in your Christmas stocking.

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The film stars Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Charlie Murphy, Jill Marie Jones, Rachel True, Katt Williams and Faizon Love.  Union plays Nancy, the multitasking ex-wife of a self-indulgent, stuck-on-stupid rapper named J-Jizzy (Murphy) who has basically sworn off love and spends all of her time rearing her three kids and exhaling with her girlfriends (True, Jones).

One day during a visit to Santa in the mall, Nancy’s daughter Emily (Khail Bryant) asks Santa (Chestnut) to send her mother something that would make her happy, like a compliment from a man. Out of costume, Santa, who is really Benjamin, delivers the wish himself. As it turns out, Benjamin—a struggling songwriter —is spotted at a coffee shop one day by Nancy’s friends, who eventually find a way to hook him up with the woman Santa is supposed to be hooking up. They fall for each other, but complications ensue once Benjamin’s alter ego is revealed.

As a premise “Perfect Holiday” probably looked really good on paper, even if it is rather formulaic and predictable. Also, it didn’t hurt to have two attractive leading stars in Chestnut and Union, who already have established screen chemistry. Unfortunately for the cast and the audience, Rivera’s (who is also the writer) execution is horrific. All of the actors seem to struggle with the dialogue, particularly Williams, who plays J-Jizzy’s impish producer. Murphy’s performance was actually one of the highlights in “Perfect Holiday,” but whenever there was a real opportunity to have some quality comic relief with Williams, those scenes fall flatter than the flat iron that was used to press Williams’ hair.

And at the risk of sounding like the grinch that panned a holiday movie, I have to add that it was also rather disconcerting to see Academy Award nominees Latifah and Howard stoop to such low levels. Latifah is one of the film’s producers so I guess she felt compelled to be in it as well, but there is no rational explanation as to why Howard is in this mess. It was painful to see. He wasted his time and ours.

‘Tis the season, however, so I applaud the fact that Rivera and Latifah wanted to create a African American holiday movie—something we really hadn’t seen before the releases of “This Christmas” and “Perfect Holiday.” Their hearts were in the right place, but perhaps they needed to ask Santa to send them someone who could have helped them put this all together in the right way. That could have made this a more perfect holiday.

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