By Kirk Honeycutt (THR.com)
Falling somewhere between a telenovela and a sitcom's big holiday show, "Nothing Like the Holidays" mixes family melodrama with the good cheer of the season, all with a distinct Latin flavor. For the Rodriguez clan hails from Puerto Rico even if Chicago is their longtime home -- and few of the actors actually are Puerto Rican. Every family member brings in his or her own subplot, which plays out Christmas week in the Windy City's Humboldt Park district given over to street carolers, midnight masses and jolly parties.
Like last year's black Christmas comic melodrama "This Christmas," "Holidays" aims for an ethnic audience but plays its hand broadly enough that everyone can join in on the festivities. With such name actors as John Leguizamo, Freddy Rodriguez, Debra Messing and Alfred Molina providing the outreach, this Overture release should enjoy a solid theatrical run followed by substantial video and cable play in subsequent holiday seasons.
Director Alfredo de Villa ("Washington Heights") has demonstrated an affinity to urban life and Latino culture, but here he allows himself a bit of a holiday while remaining firmly in touch with those twin milieus. The situations tend toward contrivance, but the atmosphere is easygoing and the actors seem relaxed even when everyone at the family table is yelling.
For the first time in years, the whole family turns up at the generous, homey domicile of Eduardo (Molina) and Anna Rodriguez (Elizabeth Pena). This includes son Jesse (Rodriguez), just back from a tour of duty in Iraq that left him with an eye wound, and daughter Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), absent three years in pursuit of a Hollywood career.