John Leguizamo (Ice Age, Moulin Rouge!), Freddy Rodriguez (“Six Feet Under,” Bobby), Debra Messing (“Will & Grace,” “The Starter Wife”), and Alfred Molina (The Pink Panther 2) lead a hilarious ensemble cast in this humorous and heartwarming holiday story that is “laugh-out-loud-funny and downright touching." (MoviePictureFilm.com) It’s Christmastime in Chicago, and the far-flung members of the Rodriguez family are converging at their parents’ home to celebrate the season. During the course of this eventful week, traditions will be celebrated, secrets revealed, old resentments forgotten, familial bonds re-affirmed and the healing power of laughter will work its magic. Nothing Like The Holidays is a “heartfelt,” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) gift for the whole family.
If Nothing Like the Holidays
appears 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 (Death Proof’s Vanessa Ferlitto), and attorney Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and his tightly-wound spouse, Sarah (Debra Messing). While Roxanna finds herself drawn to family friend Ozzy (Jay Hernandez), a former gang-banger, Jesse struggles with his feelings for ex-girlfriend Marissa (Melonie Diaz), who's moved on in his absence, and Anna laments her lack of grandchildren, but when she announces she's divorcing Edy, a bodega proprietor, the entire clan decides to make the most of their last holiday together. If De Villa's intentions are honorable, and his cast is up to the task--especially Molina and Rodríguez--the two halves of his film make for an awkward fit. Jesse's shell-shocked veteran, for instance, belongs to a different movie than that of his wisecracking cousin, Johnny (Luis Guzmán). Then, when Ozzy picks up a gun in an act of revenge, domestic drama and ethnic comedy collide with the hood flick. Unlike the many brash and materialistic entertainments crowding the multiplex at the end of the year, Nothing Like the Holidays
prioritizes cultural and emotional matters, but still registers as more of a missed opportunity than a contemporary classic. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Nothing Like the Holidays (Click for larger image)