Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Monday, November 19, 2007

    The wave of “positive" and Christ-loving black films is clearly due to the Tyler Perry phenomenon -- but are these films being green-lighted because they are truly positive or just non-threatening enough for mainstream white audiences? As I’ve said time and time again, being black is not enough for a movie to be stellar – it still has to be good. It is no secret singing, dancing, smiling and Christ-loving Negroes makes money!

    This Christmas is the story of a suburban black family in Los Angeles who come together every year for the holidays. However, this year "Lifetime Television" and "Cosby Show" sitcom secrets are revealed. The characters are caught up in a meant-to-be whirlwind of scandal, causing everyone to depend on the strength of the family. Sadly, I've seen more interesting plot twists in a GEICO commercial.

    This Christmas is a movie I truly wanted to like, especially with a cast like Regina King (I can just watch her blink for two hours and be entertained!), original Broadway Dreamgirl Loretta Devine, the ridiculously talented Idris Elba (hold my mule!) and that pop tart Chris Brown (who isn't a bad actor -- as long as he didn't have a consecutive three sentences or more to say at one time). There isn't an unattractive person on the screen, especially with Dreamgirls cast members like Keith Robinson and Sharon Leal and some new kat daddies such as Laz Alonso and Columbus Short. Whatever the case, these stellar actors with million dollar looks couldn't make this shotty, mundane and eye-rolling script manageable.

    From the start it’s obvious the film is a flavorless imitation of 1997's Soulfood, which was a perfect example of a black family movie that was positive, but not making contrived quantum leaps. For example, the characters in This Christmas attended Princeton, Morehouse, Spellman and even Harvard! Not saying black folks don’t attend the upper crust of higher education, but this typical selection of schools, for nearly every character, felt pushed. To make matters more elite, the family had a Mexican maid, played by the legendary Lupe Ontiveros, and her name was Rosie -- who only had two lines! I was waiting for Regina King's character to have an African mammy for her two kids. Basically, I felt like I was watching Upper West Side WASPs with a tan.

    Just like Soulfood, there is a family business at stake, a house is attempting to be sold and the sisters are arguing...I was so waiting for the, "I'm your sister, girl!" line. However, in this recycled black family story, race doesn't exist, unlike Soulfood. In the Soulfood movie and series, the black men emphasized the struggle of employment and the audience understood the black male versus female gender constructs. Sure, every black film cannot be about race, but to completely ignore race in the black experience is like ignoring the same sex sleep together in a movie that is centered on gays. You can’t just slap fried chicken and Motown songs in a movie and it suddenly becomes a representation of black life.

    Unlike Perry's films, This Christmas isn’t intolerable with low-bar acting/directorial moments. On the other hand, unlike Perry's films, or at least Why Did I Get Married?, there are no laugh out loud hilarious moments to mop up the foolishness. Overall, This Christmas is a safe, syrupy; give you-a-toothache-because-of-all-the-sugar bore.

    Again, not a bad movie, just not worth the train or car ride to the theatre, unless you want to look at pretty people on screen for two hours.

    2/5 Stars

    This Christmas is in theaters this Wednesday, November 21st. Click here for tickets.

    PS. Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls, Why Did I Get Married?) is getting skinnier with each movie -- she is giving Thandi Newton a battle for the skinniest black woman on the planet. Miss Sharon, I find it hard to believe you ate any of that Christmas fried chicken!

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:45 AM :: 18 comments

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