In a holiday season fraught with holiday films, "The Perfect Holiday" is somewhat mired by doing little more than anyone else. Given the feel-good films around this time of year typically run the feel-good storyline, it's all about the journey... and here, the stick pretty tried and true to the plot library's cookie-cutter.
Benjamin is an aspiring songwriter who takes a job as a mall Santa as the latest odd job (with his good pal Jamal). Nancy is a divorcee single mom to three young children, oldest John-John, then Mikey and Emily. Nancy's ex-husband is J-Jizzy (or simply James to those that remember him "before"), a 35-year-old rap star who's living the self-centered good, life, having left his wife and children by the wayside.
Emily overhears her mom's wish of a man simply paying her a compliment, without an agenda. Emily tells Santa she wants nothing for herself for Christmas, only that Santa give her mom a man to pay mom a compliment; Benjamin seems intrigued by this selfless act in a crowd of kids demanding bikes, game stations and ponies. Benjamin sees Nancy a few days later, figures he can grant the simple wish, and fulfills Emily's wish. Problem is, he is enchanted with Nancy, Nancy is intrigued by him, and with Emily's now regular visits to Santa, he's kept in the loop. (Benjamin does struggle, of course, with trying to keep separate what he feels is a sacred Santa-child confidentiality.)
All the while, Mrs. Christmas (Queen Latifa) is popping up narrating the film and lending a magical touch when the situation warrants it, along with her sidekick Bah Humbug (Terrence Howard). The two make an amusing diversion, though their talents here are largely untapped. (So if Latifa is the sole reason you're seeing this one, consider sitting it out.)
Gabrielle Union (Nancy), Morris Chestnut (Benjamin) and Charles Q. Murphy (J-Jizzy, and Eddie Murphy's older brother) all deliver decent performances. Writer/director Lance Rivera (also writer/director of The Cookout from 2004) is showing promise in terms of a visible improvement in the script and film quality. While not a stellar rise to the top of the heap, it's a positive step forward, and a few more films should hone his skills to put his work over that of the norm.
It's decent enough film to warrant a trip with the kids at a matinee prices, but if you're still on the fence, I suspect it'll be on DVD by March. The love story borders on touching, but seems to back off when it gets to the point of feeling plausible. Again, another time or two out of the gate and Rivera should have this thing down pat.