Another seasonal comedy in 'Nothing Like the Holidays'

  • Article by: Christy DeSmith
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • December 12, 2008 - 11:19 AM

'Nothing Like the Holidays'

★★ 1/2 out of four stars

Rating: PG-13 for sexual dialogue, drug references.

The likable Rodriguez family gives heart to this palatable holiday-flavored comedy, which is set in Chicago's predominantly Puerto Rican Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Most of them present deep-seated flaws: The patriarch, a boisterous and barrel-chested fellow named Edy (Alfred Molina), keeps too many secrets from his beloved family -- in fact, he looks to be having an affair; the matriarch, Anna (Elizabeth Peña), is a titch overbearing, and Sarah (Debra Messing) is the brittle and entirely too career-focused Caucasian wife of Edy and Anna's older son, Mauricio (John Leguizamo), a mama's boy who wants a baby.

Even so, director Alfredo De Villa manages to make the viewer fond of each character -- even as he explores the ugly territory of their family dysfunction. But of course, this playful movie wants to exploit their pain. The Rodriguezes are dealing with divorce, a war injury, cancer and even Christmas, but these setbacks are all played for jokes. When tragedy fails to get laughs, De Villa simply sends one of the Rodriguez men to march across the screen in funny-looking underpants.




★ out of four stars • Rating: PG, fantasy action violence.

Here is more proof that not everyone with access to the tools and talent to make an animated film should be allowed to. It's a focus-group film, from its all-star voice cast (Jennifer Love Hewitt, Burt Reynolds) to its mash-up of a plot and "cuddly" critters.

The animation's not bad. But the staggeringly complicated Tolkien-C.S. Lewis setting, the reptilian leads and the faded fairy-tale plot skewer poor "Delgo" before we can figure out what's going on and why.

The title character (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is a mod dinosaurish dude with an inexpressive face and ears that only a mom could love. He lives in a peaceful land where his people (the Lockni) invited the homeless, winged Nohrin to stay after they'd ruined their own country. Treachery rules the day as the Nohrin try to seize control. Hewitt is a winged Nohrin princess who is smitten by the boy who cannot fly. Malcolm McDowell and Val Kilmer voice competing generals, Chris Kattan and Eric Idle do comic relief, with Michael Clarke Duncan as the Obi Wan who teaches Delgo to master the magic stones. Did I mention there are magic stones? Never mind.

If there's a lesson recent Hollywood history has taught us, it's that not every cut-rate animation finds an audience, and not many deserve one.


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