Nothing Like the Holidays (review)

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Surely the concept of “family” is one of the laziest bits of shorthand Hollywood films use as a shortcut for bypassing all the necessary drama that should otherwise be transporting a character from Point A to Point B over the course of a well-told story. Here, we have the Chicago Rodriguezes, a typically neurotic, nevertheless charming clan, getting together for Christmas. Will the New York lawyer (John Leguizamo: Righteous Kill) and his tragically not-Puerto Rican wife (Debra Messing: The Women) ever have a baby? What will the little brother (Freddie Rodriguez: Bottle Shock), wounded in Iraq, do with the rest of his life? What about sis (Vanessa Ferlito: Death Proof) and her dreams of Hollywood stardom? Does Mom’s (Elizabeth Pena: The Incredibles) sudden threat of divorce from Dad (Alfred Molina: Silk) mean this is their last holiday together? The cast is appealing, honest, and authentic (well, apart from the fact that Molina is not Hispanic), but the story less so, relying on some unenunciated healing power of family to magically hand everyone the “right” major life decisions at the last moment… decisions that appear to spring from nothing we’ve seen before, except that, apparently, family makes you wise. It makes for an entirely predictable yet paradoxically anticlimatic movie.

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Laurie D. T. Mann
Sun, Dec 14, 2008 4:36pm

While I didn’t like the movie as much as Roger Ebert did, I liked the cast and the setting well enough. The script teetered on the cusp of stereotypes without completely falling in.

Molina is British (and, boy, did he sound British in one or two places in this movie!), but his father was from Spain and his mother was from Italy.

I’m more impressed by Freddy Rodriguez in everything I see him in.

Sun, Dec 14, 2008 4:42pm

Molina is British (and, boy, did he sound British in one or two places in this movie!), but his father was from Spain and his mother was from Italy.

Which makes him not-Hispanic. :->

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Sun, Dec 14, 2008 5:47pm

Molina is a Spanish surname.

And the word “Hispanic” is originally derived from the Latin word for “Spain”–the country of Molina’s paternal ancestors. (And anyway, many Hispanics consider the term to be controversial for that very reason.)

However, Alfred Molina had said in interviews–including one he did with–ironically–Hispanic Magazine that he does not consider himself to be Hispanic. He has played Hispanic characters in many a movie prior to Nothing Like the Holidays (the most obvious being his roles in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Maverick) but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. After all, Mexican-born actor Anthony Quinn used to play so many Italian characters in the movies that I once thought he was Italian.

Anyway, if Molina chooses to not see himself as Hispanic, there’s no point in trying to drag him kicking and screaming into the Hispanic community. There are more important issues for Hispanics to address.

Tonio Kruger
Tonio Kruger
Sat, Nov 14, 2009 10:50am

Well, I finally saw the movie on DVD–per MaryAnn’s instructions–and it wasn’t as bad as I feared.


Some moments were off. I couldn’t help but wonder why a Puerto Rican would have the first bars of a Mexican folk song as a tune on his car horn and why Alfredo Molina’s character used the same Spanish term of endearment for his wife that I used to use for my Mexican grandmother.

And though this would be the first Latino Christmas movie ever, it was still depressing to note how familiar some of the plot elements are: the murdered sibling, the non-Latin wife, the spouse who may or may not be unfaithful, the old girlfriend who may or may not have been pregnant with a certain family member’s illegitimate child…

And yet I liked it a bit more than I expected to after seeing this movie’s rather silly trailer.

Though seeing former I Married Dora star Elizabeth Pena as a would-be grandparent was almost as shocking as seeing her former co-star Juliette Lewis appear on an episode of My Name Is Earl.