Merry Liddle Christmas is a merry liddle mess but not without some enjoyable moments. If it were up to me, I’d cut most of the dialogue and about half an hour of runtime. I would, however, keep the plot and the actors while ramping up production values and the music budget. The story, inspired by lead actor Kelly Rowland’s own disastrous Christmas, features a bare bones script about tech developer Jacquie Liddle, who wants to host her family at her new Silicon Valley smart home for the first time. Her good intentions and belief in her own organizational skills, however, go by the wayside when everyone arrives.
This is a movie that thrives on Christmas chaos. Everything that can go wrong does, and predictably so. Her parents (Debbi Morgan and Chris Shields) pull up in their van loaded with the family’s Christmas decorations, many of which are homemade and all of which clash with her minimalist aesthetic. Her two sisters (Latonya Williams and Bresha Webb) and their rowdy families come and shatter the calm that she’s used to. Now with three kids, a dog, and an Alexa-like device called Benson under her roof, type A Jacquie is in for a long the weekend and some serious headaches.
Disagreements with her family members, who don’t appreciate her fancy house and lifestyle enough to her liking, ensure that this will be a Christmas to remember for all the wrong reasons. The story is relatable, even if most of us live in a house the size of Jacquie’s living room. Who hasn’t felt the excitement of showing off a new home and homemaking skills only for some fools to misbehave and cut off the power or shred one’s expensive down pillows? And even if things don’t get that extreme, there’s still the inadequacy that comes from failing to recreate your perfect childhood Christmas.
These feelings are forced though, and this rough draft of a script needs a lot more heft before the characters and plot are fully realized. It’s as if the writers are banking on us to be distracted by the holiday madness. Almost from the start, everything goes wrong for Jacquie. When she’s not battling plastic lawn ornaments or the turkey fryer, she’s mopping up juice stains and trying to appease her string cheese-loving nephew with a chunk of Stilton. It’s a chain reaction that keeps everyone running around until everything comes crashing down, almost literally, while she’s also filming a segment for some show called Queen of the Castle. Jacquie’s been chosen to feature in the program and hopes to use the chance to impress some higher ups, but the shoot doesn’t go quite as planned. The resulting rift is unearned in a way. While she’s bound to explode sooner or later, Jacquie barely mentions what should be a major plot point until a film crew shows up at her door.
The jerky pacing and overall lack of cohesion take away from movie’s better moments. There aren’t too many, but the film is at it’s best when the characters are engaged in quiet conversations and not trying to untangle themselves from a string of lights. In one early scene that doesn’t come across as overly scripted, the three sisters flip through a dating app and find Jacquie’s handsome neighbor (Thomas Cadrot). There’s a humor and candor that helps establish their relationship. I also like when Kiki, the messier sister, and her brother-in-law (Jaime M. Callica) escape the madness and bond over a glass of Baileys and their insecurities, giving both characters some needed dimension. In fact, every Liddle gets his or her moment to shine and to show off an interior life. The film would be better off emphasizing this instead of the holiday disaster it plays up.
“Love You More at Christmas Time” by Kelly Rowland:
Dir: Bosede Williams
Writer: Andrea Stevens
Cast: Kelly Rowland, Thomas Cadrot, Debbi Morgan, Chris Shields, Latonya Williams, Bresha Webb, Jaime M. Callica
Time: 87 min
Country: United States