Each Advent, the moviegoer inevitably finds two holiday-anxiety genres under the tree: the child’s, in which an external force imperils a family, a group of orphans or a town and threatens to “stop Christmas,” and the adult’s, in which the threat to the sanctity of Christmas is the nuclear family itself. Nothing Like the Holidays is such a plumb and serviceable exemplar of the latter that it calls for an official, extended definition of the Adult Christmas film genre: a nougat-centered, romantic dramedy about dysfunctional relationships featuring a handsome and familiar-from-television ensemble cast, with the added value of a voyeuristic home tour, in which the activities, foodstuffs, and décor of someone else’s holiday ceremony are as much the object of emotional salivation as the soap opera plot.
Although the concerns of the Adult Christmas picture correlate generally with those of Good Housekeeping (espousing better husband-wife communication and ergonomic egg-beaters), these are not “chick flicks.” Grown families are expected to attend these movies together at the tail of December, and the plots are skewed equally toward the sexes, saluting teenagers, AARP members, and everyone in between. The use of the generic “holiday” in the title is a genuflection that tactfully eliminates the Baby Jesus from the equation, leveling the field for practicing and non-practicing Christians as well as those of other faiths; and yet, the holiday in question is no generic familial celebration. It is, nine times out of ten, specifically and spectacularly Christmas.
Click here to read the rest of Leah Churner’s review of Nothing Like the Holidays.