There's some boisterous holiday cheer that may cross over beyond urban locales in the Latino-flavored Nothing Like the Holidays.
Starring Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Pena, John Leguizamo, and Freddy Rodriquez, Alfredo De Villa's appealingly routine yuletide cinema is set in Chicago's Humboldt distinct. That's where most of the residents are Puerto Rican, and a Christmas reunion is awaiting the husband and wife - Eduardo (Molina) and Anna (Pena).
The time-worn vignettes collaborated on by a man and woman and the safe helming (mostly inside) suggest a melange of films like This Christmas, The Family Stone, and Soul Food.
Eduardo runs a bodega, and he and Anna welcome son Jesse (Rodriquez), home from Iraq with physical and mental wounds, along with legal eagle son Mauricio (Leguizamo), and aspiring actress daughter Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito, known of late for her "CSI" work).
To the film's credit, it's more coherent than the concurrent hit Four Christmases which also uses its broad, slapsticky feel to greater effect.
The imperious Anna gets on Mauricio and his very well-off white daughter-in-law Sarah (Debra Messing of The Women) about not making her a happy grandmother. Even the rest of the family wonder why they haven't had a "Sorta Rican" yet.
Like its title, Nothing Like the Holidays mostly plays out in a predictable, safe way, as a competitiveness, bickering, and reconciliation is like a toned-down Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins. Luis Guzman and Jay Hernandez, along with Melonie Diaz as Jesse's old flame add some colorful support to the pervading tightly wound feel and look of the proceedings before some wintry fresh air. Like The Family Stone there is something of a wake-up call amid all of the opening up and pet peeves.
Though most of the cast isn't really Puerto Rican, they help make the ethnic wrinkles distinctive and charming enough for those who sympathized with the problems among a community spirit like Barbershop. Yet, the tided-up storylines really don't amount to much, like the snow, as the filmmakers can't eschew a renewal where it concerns love and family.
Still, like this northwest side of the Windy City, there is enough diversity and a tad of fantasy here to make the dramedy go down pretty well. And what's cooking in this hearty and finally heartwarming stew is the actorly stature of Molina, and, especially, Pena, who brings so many maternal qualities in an instinctive way.