Review: The Perfect Holiday

The Christmas season receives a nugget of coal with "The Perfect Holiday" (IMDb listing). A flavorless, humorless piece of fantasy drivel, "Holiday" certainly means well enough, but so much inanity litters this picture, making it impossible to appreciate the offering of seasonal cinema kindheartedness.

Benjamin (Morris Chesnutt) is a struggling songwriter, taking a job as a mall Santa on the weekends to make ends meet. When a young child slips into his lap and wishes for a man to compliment her frazzled single mother, Nancy (Gabrielle Union), Benjamin sets out to accomplish the task, unaware that his efforts provoke an overwhelming response, and soon relationship, with the love-hungry woman. Trapped between the tender affection of Nancy and his growing musical opportunities with Nancy's ex, rapper J-Jizzy (Charlie Murphy), Benjamin searches for an exit out of his predicament that won't ruin the holiday season for his loved ones.

Just seeing the names of the two stars of "Perfect Holiday" is more than enough to lose faith in this strange bit of trifle. Though the possibility may exist, I can't imagine two more tedious, bland actors than Union and Chestnut. As attractive as they might register to those with more basic entertainment demands, neither actor can actually act, or, at the very least, fake a sense of emoting that takes drama from point A to B. "Holiday" doesn't ask much more from the two than straightforward comedic shrugging and romantic googly eyes, but watching Union and Chestnut stagger around the frame, trying to evoke tender holiday cheer and slapstick surprise, is depressing to view, especially when cruder, yet far more lively co-stars (Katt Williams, Faizon Love) wait in the wings of this misfire with nothing to do but stare and consider better film roles in the future.

"Holiday" is a Christmas fantasy, but that simplicity eludes the film at every turn. Director Lance Rivera ("The Cookout") has no command of the material, weaving through deadly comedic situations (including child pranks on Benjamin out of the "Home Alone" playbook) and fizzled romantic claptrap without any personality. Even more peculiar (and loathsome) are interludes of angelic monkey business, provided by Terrence Howard and co-producer Queen Latifah, who step into the film for no other reason other than to parade Latifah's horrific camera manner around for another screen endeavor and provoke serious doubt that Howard is actually reading the scripts he's been selecting recently.

There's a bright attitude within "Holiday," but it takes on the sensation of a jackhammer, as Rivera piles on the seasonal glow to overcome the sitcom limitations of the script and cover the dreadful performances. However, "Perfect Holiday" is far from an offensive effort. It's just pathetic and forgettable, and when it comes to Christmas cheer, mediocrity should never be left under the tree.

Filmfodder Grade: D+