"The Perfect Holiday" strives to be nothing more than easygoing and heartwarming, as well as to serve up relatively clean PG-fare and, according to the press materials, to be "the first African-American ensemble comedy for the Christmas season."
Well, there was an African-American ensemble comedy that came out in November called "This Christmas" but technically that was an African-American ensemble comedy for the Thanksgiving season.
It was also a fair bit more engaging than this overplotted and underwhelming picture, in which Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard act as sparring, twinkling narrators of a story about finding true love and a hit song in the nick of time.
Gabrielle Union, who deserves better material, as do her co-stars, plays Nancy, a single mother of three. Her unreliable ex (Charlie Murphy) is a rapper who goes by J-Jizzy, recording a new Christmas album featuring such tender songs as "I Saw Mommy Cappin' Santa Claus" and "Jiggle All the Way." (As I said: relatively clean PG fare.) Jizzy's manager (Katt Williams, the best thing going here) urges his star to include one heartfelt tune.
What a coincidence! Sweet, aspiring songwriter Benjamin (Morris Chestnut, who sometimes confuses "relaxed" with "somnambulant" has just the tune at the ready, if he can convince someone in the biz to give it a listen.
To make the rent Benjamin works as a mall elf, alongside his Santa pal (Faizon Love). Sometimes they switch roles, and when one of Nancy's kids asks Benjamin-as-Santa for some nice man to give her mom a compliment, Benjamin obliges. Deception-ridden romance ensues. Benjamin keeps his mall gig a secret and throughout "The Perfect Holiday," Latifah and Howard act as commentators, nudging the contrivances this way and that.
Co-writer and director Lance Rivera's film intermittently comes to life, usually for non-holiday-related reasons. Williams, for example, can get more comic mileage out of a riff on someone's milky-colored shirt than most comedians can get in a full-length concert. But the film lacks any sort of cinematic personality. It does not lack for product placement, though. Two key scenes are set in a Starbucks, and if audiences filing out of "The Perfect Holiday" are heard muttering "must ... buy ... Christmas Blend ... now" in unison, well ... mission accomplished.