So many people claim they are originally from Jersey, ergo that must mean when someone sings “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” they really mean they’re going back to Jersey…to Jersey. Queen Latifah is one of those people. She’s a tough chick who was born in Newark, NJ and raised in East Orange, who went ahead and crowned herself the Queen of Hip-Hop. There’s never been any other female hip-hop artist that has been formidable enough to threaten her crown, but what’s funny is that I can only recall one of her songs, which is “U.N.I.T.Y” from 1994. Most of what I know about the former power forward of the Irvington High School girls basketball team, aka Dana Owens, is that she’s become more of a movie star, and unfortunately 2007’s The Perfect Holiday is not one of her better ones.
The plot of The Perfect Holiday is trite Christmas fare, something you might see on ABC Family Channel or better yet…Hallmark Channel rather than in theaters. Gabrielle Union (the hot rival cheerleader in Bring It On), shows that she needs several more acting classes to become Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock who she was attempting to channel in this movie. In her role as Nancy, she plays a mother of 3 who has just separated from her rapper husband. Benjamin (Morris Chestnut) is the guy that swoops in to steal her heart as he’s playing Santa Claus at Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth, NJ. Nancy’s cuter-than-Olivia-Kendall daughter Emily (Khail Bryant) tips Benjamin off that her mom is in need of a compliment. Chestnut’s performance was only forgivable because it was so predictable and cheesy. Charlie Murphy is J-Jizzy, a way less likable P.Diddy sort of hip-hop artist who has left his 3 kids with the hurdle of adjusting to their mother’s new boyfriend (Chestnut). Forget all that, the heavy guy from Couples Retreat, Faizon Love, is the best and funniest part of this movie.
The pace is fast, the editing is terrible, and they crammed pretty much every Christmas song you can think of into every second of the film. Even having the majestic Queen Latifah as one of the producers did not give this film the boost it needed. Latifah’s screen time as “Mrs. Christmas” is minimal, and the dude who wishes he was Don Cheadle, Terrence Howard, also appears as her extremely annoying cohort, Bah Humbug. The film was directed and co-written by Lance “Un” Rivera, the Unentertainment Records CEO and fomer Biggie Smalls collaborator. He also directed another film I’ll be writing about in the future, 2004’s The Cookout.
I can only recommend The Perfect Holiday to those of you who love the actors in the film, as well as to hardcore New Jersey buffs like myself. Our newspaper, The Star-Ledger makes an appearance, and so does tons of crappy looking computer generated snow. In case you decide to go out on a limb and Netflix this steaming lump of coal, you’ve been warned.
Filming Locations: Hoboken, Jersey City, Bergenfield, Rutherford, Westfield, Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth and Garden Palace Lanes in Clifton.