The movie takes a few calamitous turns at its climax, dangerously approaching broad slapstick and villainizing a character we've come to love. But mainly, it's a fun and boisterous countdown to the big meal.
The committed performances by the cast of talented actors are what elevates Almost Christmas above complaints about its familiarity and melodrama.
Almost Christmas goes light enough on the clich� and gives the stacked cast - which also includes J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Omar Epps and Romany Malco - enough decent material that the film remains relatively lively.
It's as predictable as your aunt's holiday stuffing, but the cast finds some places to open up the material.
On a few, all-too-rare occasions, comedic sparks fly.
The epiphanies go down like eggnog, along with the smooth R'n'B and jazz on the soundtrack.
"Almost Christmas" is an often disarmingly entertaining picture, in spite of its being a not particularly well-thought-out cinematic contrivance.
Almost Christmas plays both sides of the comedy-drama equation broadly, which serves one at the expense of the other.
The film's energy can be relentless, but the feelings are real, and they're wrapped in a dysfunctional-family package that's so venerable and endearing as to seem a little bit new.