This Christmas

Rated 4.0

An African-American family gathers for Christmas at the home of their mother (Loretta Devine), bringing all their baggage with them. Writer-director Preston Whitmore II’s film has its shortcomings—he tidies things up a bit too easily, and some issues with real dramatic implications are glossed over, while others feel contrived out of whole cloth. But there’s a genuine feeling of a real family’s real Christmas, with all its heat as well as warmth, the kind of thing that’s missing from the plastic platitudes of holiday junk like Fred Claus. The first-rate cast is a plus—Delroy Lindo, Chris Brown, Idris Elba, Regina King, Sharon Leal, Columbus Short, Laz Alonso and Mekhi Phifer, among others—but probably the biggest plus of all is Whitmore’s well-modulated ear for kitchen-and-dinner-table dialogue.