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December 17, 2008 > Movie Review: Nothing Like the Holidays

Movie Review: Nothing Like the Holidays

By Susana Nunez

Rated PG-13

Every year, the holiday season brings audiences new films about being together and what it truly means to be a family. Some of these stories are heart-warming and sweet, while others make us laugh when we see characters dealing with all too familiar holiday dilemmas. Many of these movies become holiday favorites that we still enjoy watching year after year, but others do absolutely nothing for us and disappear into the abyss of holiday film failures. Nothing Like the Holidays managed to go on for 99 minutes without producing any sort of emotions at all - the laughter was scarce, the characters just didn't work well together, and there wasn't even a clear message.

The film is about the Rodriguez family, a Puerto Rican family living in Chicago and possibly spending their last Christmas together. Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) just came home from Iraq to open arms and a warm welcome from his parents Edy (Alfred Molina) and Anna (Elizabeth Pena). His brother Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and sister Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) are also back for the holidays, as they had left Chicago to pursue careers on Wall Street and Hollywood, respectively. However, amidst the celebrations, Anna announces that she is divorcing their father Edy because she suspects he is cheating on her. Mauricio, Anna, and Jesse have differing views on their mother's decision, which only makes the situation at home even more uncomfortable.

The story moves along and eventually, as in every holiday film, things seem to work out for everyone. No big surprise there, but the problem is that the characters become interchangeable. It doesn't even matter that Jesse served in Iraq, or that Roxanna is a struggling actress; nothing about them makes viewers care. The characters are bland and one-dimensional. And because audiences never really got to know the characters, it was difficult to believe their motives and actions.

Another one of the film's main issues was the forced dialogue about being Puerto Rican during the holidays. It was interesting the first five times it was mentioned but then it just kept going...and going...until every scene in the film featured a Puerto Rican flag and some sort of joke about Puerto Ricans being culturally different. It interfered with getting to know the characters and appeared to be the sole reason behind every character's decisions and actions. It made for a very shallow story, which leads into the other problem - there was no real main character or characters. The story began with Jesse as the main character but then trailed off without warning and viewers were left wondering whom they were supposed to be following. Things unfolded awkwardly, and it was impossible to feel anything during "emotional" scenes since the characters lacked depth.

Nothing Like the Holidays is definitely not this season's must-see film, nor is it even rental worthy. It's not a terrible movie but it also isn't worth wasting time or money on. Save yourself a trip to the theater. You're much better off watching one of your old holiday favorites.

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