I am a newbie when it comes to Hallmark style holiday fare, but I love to shed a tear, and am happy to see families and films that embrace plots and themes outside of what has for decades been standard. THE JENKINS FAMILY CHRISTMAS is an excellent version of this new style holiday film, with terrific writing, a handsome production, and a great cast.
The excellent Regina Taylor is Baneatta, a woman still grieving for her father as Christmas approaches. She has inherited his house but banished to the garage all the parts of him which make her uncomfortable – a plug in Black Santa, and an amazing Rolls Royce. But each time the doorbell rings, her challenges mount.
First off is her sister Beverly, full of bluster and flirtation which Baneatta finds distasteful. Daughter Brianna (Tammy Townsend) arrives without her husband. And son Kenny (Anthony Chatmon II) has arrived with Logan (Derek Chadwick), a man who clearly adores him. When a stranger rings the bell, the plot kicks into high gear, complete with a burst water main in the chapel, some strangely dubbed choral music, and a mysterious promise of an inheritance once the complete family has gathered.
While juggling all these challenges is handled without surprise, a scene I enjoyed was one by the fire-pit when Kenny’s sister asks him why he has only dated white men. That discussion is worth the time spent watching the movie. Despite the death of the patriarch, the family has gotten bigger instead of smaller.
Robin Givens has a directed a screenplay by Oscar Estella, Joy Kecken, Christopher Oscar Pena. The costumes are lush, and the preacher’s house is pretty darn amazing, with a two-story front hall and what appears to be a hot tub or pool.
THE JENKINS FAMILY CHRISTMAS has corny elements as all of the Hallmark style movies do. But it has a heart of gold, and when Logan is finally referred to by his actual name, it is a lovely touch. I am not sure this will climb into the annals of great holiday films, but it is a step in the right direction.
A JENKINS FAMILY CHRISTMAS can be found on BET.