Review in a Hurry: Feliz Friggin' Navidad. Drama and dysfunction threaten to tear apart a tight-knit Puerto Rican family, led by Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Peña. Despite the strong ensemble cast and spicy Latin flavor, this holiday fare is a heaping helping of narrative re-hash.
The Bigger Picture: Haven't had your fill of fruitcake relatives at home? Then head to your local multiplex, where, every holiday season, there's at least one flick about an effed-up family gathering. Another in this well-worn genre, Holidays adds a welcome ethnic twist to the mix, but not much else, as it introduces us to the raucous Rodriguez clan. They converge at the parents' Chicago home to celebrate Christmas and the return of youngest brother Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) from overseas combat.
It's not long before everyone's emotional baggage is unloaded and secrets are spilled: Haunted by an incident in Iraq, Jesse reveals feelings for an old flame. His actress sister, Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), struggles with her failed TV/film career. And lawyer brother Mauricio (John Leguizamo) fights with his Jewish executive wife (Debra Messing), who's too busy with her finance career to have kids.
Papi Edy (Molina) hopes his gaggle can still enjoy a festive reunion, but during dinner, wife Anna (Peña) accuses him of cheating and asks for a divorce. Will this be their last Christmas together? And will they topple that old sturdy tree in the front yard (the one that should display a sign saying "The Big Metaphor")?
Warm at times and lovingly lensed, Holidays has obvious affection for the Humboldt Park hood and its vibrant Hispanic heritage—there are joyous scenes of cooking, singing, dancing and neighbors parading through the streets. But the film needs a much fresher, stronger story, one worthy of its talented actors. Instead, it conjures ghosts of Christmas movies past, namely The Family Stone, which also interjected an uptight businesswoman—and illness—into a fam's celebrations.
Let's wish next year for a holiday movie with more surprises.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Mmmm, the food...empanadas, pasteles, roasted pork and much more! You'll definitely be drooling. If theaters were smart, they'd offer tapas at concessions.