Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some sexual dialogue, and brief drug references, 99 minutes
"Holidays": Pleasant, average Puerto Rican family - pleasant, average movie
"Nothing Like the Holidays" invites you home to a Latina Christmas but you'll be looking for more spice. This is about your average, pleasant and nice Puerto Rican family, and it comes out as an average, pleasant and unmemorable movie. There are a few good, funny moments, but it lacks poignancy and inspiration to set it apart from any other movie about families during the holidays.
The Rodriguez family in Chicago is gathering for Christmas to welcome home their family. Edy (Alfred Molina) runs the family grocery store, while Anna (Elizabeth Pena) tends to their spacious home. Mauricio (John Leguizamo) and Sarah (Debra Messing) are a successful New York couple who've yet to have children; budding actress Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) is hoping to land an important acting gig, and youngest son Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez of "Six Feet Under") is coming home from Iraq after seeing some action. Family friends Johnny (Luis Guzman) and Ozzy (Jay Hernandez) are around to ensure there's never a dull moment. Family problems ensue when Edy is suspected of cheating, though he's really hiding much more.
For all that goes on in "Nothing Like the Holidays," not much really happens that's interesting. You've seen family dyfunction channeled much better on an episode of the TV drama "Brothers and Sisters," which this could be a Latin version of. Every twist and turn is predictable and plays itself out in TV episode-like fashion.
There are a few charming moments, mainly coming from character actor Guzman, who steals and chomps every scene he's in, and taking with him the movie's funniest moments. The drama lacks punch, which is due to the pedestrian script, in spite of a gallery of talented, mostly Hispanic actors. Pena is always fun to watch, but Molina is too mellow and Hernandez is stuck in a one-note role. Too bad the fresh-faced, pretty Melonie Diaz (of the recent "Hamlet 2") isn't given more to do.
The writing, the direction, the acting, all could've been done much better and tends to fall back on too many cliches and stereotypes that makes it all the none too unrevealing. "Nothing Like the Holidays" isn't a bad film per se and is a pleasant enough cream puff for the holidays, but once its gone, you won't remember a bit of it.