There’s a scene in the locally filmed “Almost Christmas” where a belligerent booze hound smacks a concerned relative across the face when she suggests dialing down the drinking. In another, the hamsters Santa brings on Christmas Eve become cat food by Christmas Day.
Then there’s the scene where someone opens a gift and finds it monogrammed with someone else’s initials, and a real knee-slapper where a seating-chart misunderstanding prompts a neurotic matriarch to throw a hissy fit right in the middle of Christmas Eve dinner at the Olde Pink House restaurant in Savannah.
Oh wait. None of that happened in the movie. That all really has happened to me over the years, though.
If you also have crazy in your family — correction — because you also have crazy in your family, you may find “Almost Christmas” a humorous respite during the hectic holiday season. It opens Nov. 11.
“If you feel bad about your family, if you think your family is crazy, wait until you see this one,” producer Will Packer said during an interview with several cast members. “If this family can survive, yours has a chance.”
The movie stars Danny Glover as a lovable widower whose squabbling family collides under his roof at Christmas. Mo’Nique is hilarious as his outrageous sister-in-law while Kimberly Elise, Romany Malco, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Omar Epps, Nicole Ari Parker, Keri Hilson, Jessie T. Usher and DC Young Fly play the rowdy pack of friends and relations who defy the very notion of peace on Earth.
Hilson’s character becomes an inadvertent party crasher at the height of the dysfunction.
“Knowing that Will Packer and (writer/director) David Talbert were combining forces was it for me,” she said of what attracted her to the project. “There’s always a message, always a redeeming factor to all the fun. Those are the kind of projects I want to be a part of.”
By the way, because the movie involves lots of dining, Hilson conducted hands-on research until she became a sweet potato pie expert. She proclaims Fat Matt’s Rib Shack has the finest in Atlanta.
Epps plays a neighbor pining for Union’s character decades after their high school romance fizzled. They share a memorable scene involving a boombox and an ’80s mix tape.
“There were a lot of moving parts,” he said of the project’s ensemble nature. “I just had fun.”
While the movie has its zany parts, the opening in particular is quite touching. Before any dialogue is spoken, Talbert takes the audience on a two-minute journey that spans one couple’s entire love story. He was inspired by the opening of the animated film “Up.”
“I sat there at the beginning of ‘Up,’ and five minutes into it, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me, they’re giving that sort of emotion in an animated movie?’” he said. (Google it if you haven’t seen it, but note you’ll probably be sniffling at the end of the four-minute clip easily found on YouTube.)
Talbert’s goal in creating the narrative opening for “Almost Christmas,” he said, was to underscore “how time moves so fast. It makes you stop for a moment. It makes you appreciate life.”
Personally, it made me appreciate that while the holidays have brought their share of drama over the years, at least no one has reached for a shotgun during dinner as one character in “Almost Christmas” does. Not yet, anyway.