Christmas movies are usually about Santa Claus and this film does not stray too far from that premise. This romantic holiday flick is narrated by a sweet, kind-hearted Santa's helper who spreads the holiday cheer. Played by Queen Latifah (who's also one of the film's producer), she does not allow anything to stop her, not even a Scrooge-like partner (Terrence Howard) known as Bah-Humbug.
In this Yuletide tale. the narrator and her sidekick look in on the life of a part-time department store Santa named Benjamin (Morris Chestnut), who is a struggling songwriter, and a beautiful divorced mother, Nancy (Gabrielle Union), who is raising three young children. The problem with these two adults is that Benjamin, while writing romantic love songs, is searching for a love of his own, and Nancy, with all her charm, cannot find her "Mr. Right" because her life is involved with her children and she lacks self-confidence.
Nancy's child care problems could be remedied, but she must contend with her ex-husband J-Jizzy (Charlie Murphy), a big-time hip-hop celebrity who cannot find time for them. J-Jizzy's problem is his ego, which is as large as his mega-music empire. He is a great provider monetarily, but he is relunctant to spend time with the kids unless it can enhance his image in the entertainment world. Meanwhile, Benjamin's problems could be solved if he could sell his songs.
The three children in this Christmas flick are oldest son John-John (Malik Hammond), who desperately misses his father, Mikey (Jeremy Gumbs), the middle sibling who has his doubts about whether or not Santa is real, and little Emily (Khail Bryant), who is very smart and vivacious. The children are relative newcomers to the film industry and give fine performances. The family bonding scenes are very sensitively done and seem to come quite naturally for these young actors.
Young Emily senses that her mother is unhappy and has a plan to help. One day at the mall Emily climbs up on Santa's lap and tells him her wish. The wish is to find a nice single man and have him approach her mother and pay her a compliment. Santa (who is really Benjamin) decides this is his chance to find romance and grant Emily her wish by approaching Nancy himself.
The plot contains many sitcom-style situations with the usual romantic complications, and it gives Gabrielle Union a place in which to shine. Her performances in every film I have seen her in are great. She seems to have a natural beauty that explodes on the screen. The chemistry between her and Morris Chestnut is perfect. The humor is intermittent, mostly from comedians Charlie Murphy, who plays the egotistical rapper, and Katt Williams, who portrays his angry record producer. Charlie Murphy's character is quite funny in spite of his "bad Dad" aspects. I expected more dialogue from Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard, but their characters are there only to walk the audience through the story. I enjoyed the exceptionally good performances by supporting cast members Faizon Love, Jill Marie Jones, and Rachel True as friends of Benjamin and Nancy.
This is a film with a lot of holiday cheer.
Directed by: Lance Rivera
Running time: 96 minutes
Release date: December 12, 2007
Genre: Comedy, Romance and Fantasy
Distributor: Yari Film Group
MPAA Rating: PG