The Perfect Holiday

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If "This Christmas" served up a crowd-pleasing portion of yuletide "Soul Food," then "The Perfect Holiday" offers dried-out leftovers.

The sentiments of the season ring awfully hollow in this uninspired urban comedy, even with the likes of Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut and Charles Murphy among the ensemble.

Even if it had been better, this stale sophomore effort from filmmaker Lance Rivera ("The Cookout") would be facing a considerable challenge at the ticket counters, seeing as it's catering to the same audience so recently sated by "This Christmas," not to mention the fact that it's opening the same week as "I Am Legend," starring Mr. Boxoffice himself, Will Smith.

Meet Benjamin (Chestnut), a struggling songwriter working as an outlet-mall Santa, accompanied by his pal/oversized elf, Jamal (Faizon Love).

Meet Nancy (Union), the romance-starved, divorced mother of three young children whose ex is a pompous boob of a rapper-producer called J-Jizzy (Murphy).

It's clear that Benjamin and Nancy were meant to be together (this is, after all, something like the fourth time Chestnut and Union have shared the screen), even if her eldest son, John-John (Malik Hammond), does what he can to discourage the liaison.

Meanwhile, Latifah and Howard occasionally pop in and out as an angel/devil duo, though it often seems like they're not in the same film, or at least not on the same shooting days as the rest of the cast.

There's not a single scene in "Holiday" that doesn't feel like it was copied from any number of other cookie-cutter rom coms, Christmas-themed or otherwise, nor are there any moments in the script -- penned by Rivera and Marc E. Calixte -- that would qualify as genuinely heartwarming, believable or remotely funny.

Even with the easy-on-the-eyes presence of Union and Chestnut, as well as the normally amusing Murphy (as demonstrated on "Chappelle's Show") and Katt Williams as Murphy's long-suffering assistant, this shot-in-New Jersey production feels about as inviting as warm eggnog.

THE PERFECT HOLIDAY
Yari Film Group Releasing
Destination Films, Capital Arts Entertainment, Truenorth, Flavor Unit Films
Credits:
Director: Lance Rivera
Screenwriters: Marc E. Calixte, Lance Rivera
Producers: Shakim Compere, Leifur B. Dagfinnsson, Mike Elliott, Joseph P. Grenier, Queen Latifah, Marvin Peart, Lance Rivera
Director of photography: Teodoro Maniaci
Production designer: Anne Stuhler
Music: Christopher Lennertz
Costume designer: Francine Jamison-Tanchuk
Editor: Paul Trejo
Cast:
Benjamin: Morris Chestnut
Nancy: Gabrielle Union
Narrator: Queen Latifah
Bah-Humbug: Terrence Howard
Jamal: Faizon Love
Delicious: Katt Williams
Brenda: Rachel True
Robin: Jill Marie Jones
J-Jizzy: Charles Murphy
Mikey: Jeremy Gumbs
John-John: Malik Hammond
Emily: Khail Bryant
Running time -- 96 minutes
MPAA rating: PG
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