Anchor Bay
Release date: October 26th, 2009
MSRP: $29.98

Director: Alfredo De Villa
Stars: John Leguizamo, Debra Messing, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Pena, Vanassa Felito, Freddy Rodríguez, Jay Hernandez

It is the holiday season on the Rodriguez house. Eduardo (Alfred Molina) and Anna (Elizabeth Pena) will be celebrating the holidays with their three children. Roxana (Vanassa Ferlito) is an aspiring actress that is finding the pursuit of her dream a lot harder than she expected. Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) is returning home after three years in of service in Iraq and Mauricio (John Leguizamo)is struggling with his wife (Debra Messing) whose career goals clash with his desire to have a family.

As one can imagine, the gathering results in plenty of drama, spilling of secrets and emotional breakthroughs. Perhaps a bit too much drama, as the film risks numbing us with the truckload of neuroses and confrontations that are packed into 98 minutes. A little less could have gone farther.

For me, NltH is a mixed bag: The cast does a very nice job with what they have, but the screenplay is uneven and often struggles to find a balance between humor and drama. The film is about a Puerto Rican family and it feels like they tried to cram every damn cultural cliché in the book at us. I can’t help but feel they could have made it authentic without playing up so many stereotypes. The story that is at the heart of this film is a universal one: No matter what issues and conflicts arise, our family is the only one we have.

Director Alfredo De Villa, producer Robert Teitel and actor Freddy Rodriguez offer up a commentary track (with appearances by Luis Guzman) that is breezy fare. Everyone likes everyone and was thrilled to be a part of this project! That gets a bit old, but they have a good time and that fun is contagious. The film is set in Chicago and the talk about the city is pretty cool with comments about the weather, restaurants and local landmarks.

There is one featurettes: Nothing like the Holidays: Cast Reunion. This runs just under 12 minutes and features Rodriduez, Messing, Ferlito and a few others as they talk about the making of the film and what fun it was.

Also included are a blooper reel (yawn) and theatrical trailer.

Fans of good acting will likely enjoy NltH, as the cast is strong and deliver the goods. But don’t expect a well-rounded film, as it falls a little short. Not a bad film, but I can’t help but think there was something better hiding inside, waiting to be let out. That said, the warmth and charisma of these talented group of actors makes NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS enjoyable fare.

Order season five of NUMB3RS.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.