With a large cast lead by Ma'Dere (Loretta Devine) the mother of the Whitfield Family, we watch what we have seen often before, the joy and difficulty in the atmosphere when families come together for the holiday.
This one is filled with familiar Christmas songs beginning with "Santa Baby" and ending with "Silent Night." Ma'Dere is the mother but Delroy Lindo's Joseph Black, her live in lover/partner, has been a silent part of the family for years but not officially recognized by many of the sons and daughters. It's an open secret. Joe Black, a preacher, is living in sin according to many standards but his part in the family is enlarged and important as the story moves on. In fact many of the family members are rather risque at sex but play a solid role as part of the family. The family is the anchor and only supplemented by traditional religious thinking about sexuality and intimacy.
But this is not a serious film until near the end when everything is resolved just before the entire cast dances off the screen to rocking Christmas music.
During the film we see a stunning bed room with a warm active fire place which is part of the family home which probably is valued at two or three million dollars on the west coast, but that apparently isn't enough because the cleaning business run by the family is not making money. That confusion is not explained but the house is very comfortable. The siblings nip at each other: the housewives versus the college graduates; the workers challenge the musicians who are frowned upon by Ma'Dere (who lost her husband to the road show life of a musician). What keeps Joe a foundation of the family even when resented by some is his willingness to be there all the time.
With many little secrets, an old piano in the garage, signs of a new baby, a secret girl friend who is from another ethnic group, a clearly cheating husband who is obnoxious from the beginning who gets his (with the help of baby oil), a son who owes $25,000 to questionable characters, a Cadillac in the river and love in the ninth grade which leads to romance today.
Without breaking any new ground we find ourselves enjoying the antics of the Whitfields, a little inspired by the solid basics of the unit and happy to see them succeed at putting it all together at Christmas dinner.