In another attempt to cash in on the season of giving, here comes the comedy, Nothing Like the Holidays. The film takes us inside the windy city of Chicago, and follows the Rodriguez family as they reunite for the Christmas holiday after spending several years a part. In an all-star cast, which includes Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Peña, we watch as members of the once close-knit family, return home only to realize how much it, and they have changed.
On the surface, Nothing Like the Holidays appears to be a typical holiday comedy. It focuses on the middle class Rodriguez family, led by parents Edy and Anna (Molina and Peña). The couple’s been married for over 35 years, and have three adult children. The eldest Mauricio (John Leguizamo) is an established lawyer, whose wife Sarah (Debra Messing) is more interested in her thriving career than starting a family. The other siblings include Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez) the family favorite and prodigal son, who’s returning after a tour in Iraq, and Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), an aspiring actress who’s been living in Los Angeles. The multi-talented and hilarious Luis Guzman has a small role as the Rodriguez’s self-absorbed cousin Johnny, who scores the majority of the laughs in the script.
The story itself centers on the devastating revelation that Anna, the family matriarch, wants a divorce from her husband Edy. The shock and stress from the announcement sends a wave through the family, forcing everyone to acknowledge and expose their own hidden issues. At the end of the day this is a relationship film, not just between husband and wife, but father-son, mother-daughter, etc.
Before seeing the movie, my main concern was the casting of Elizabeth Peña as John Leguizamo’s mother. She’s only 3 years older than him, and I thought their interaction would be hard watch.Yet, after seeing them on screen together, my skepticism subsided. I also got over the fact that the only Rodriguez sister, Roxanna was portrayed by an Italian actress, because honestly how many times have we allowed Al Pacino to tread that line? Debra Messing effortlessly plays the odd ball of the group as the modern Jewish girl married into a family of old-fashioned, Puerto Rican Catholics. She sticks out like a sore thumb, but in a good way. Her character tries to fit in with the family, but refuses to lose her own identity in the process.
With a genuine family dynamic going for it, this film is better than most. Talented actors, bring together an average, but pleasant script. Co-star Freddy Rodriguez co-executive produced them film, which was directed by Alfredo De Villa. Nothing Like the Holidays is rated PG-13, and is currently playing in theaters everywhere.