When Academy Award© nominated actress Queen Latifah suggested Hollywood produce the first African American-themed Christmas story, she didn’t wait for some suit to hire someone to write the script, she strutted over to her friend’s house, writer/director Lance Rivera and they went to work. The result: the upcoming Christmas time film “Perfect Holiday” which arrives in theatres December 12.
“We’re always looking for ways to introduce lighthearted stories that are true reflections of the African American family experience,” says Latifah who stars in and narrates the film. “This movie has a message of love. How important love is from parents to children, from woman to man, as well as loving your dreams and going for them. There is also a message of hope”
Long before the success of “This Christmas”—the movie about a Black Los Angeles family and all of their holiday drama which pulled in more than $27 million over the Thanksgiving holidays, Latifah and the filmmakers of “Perfect Holiday” knew they were on to something new and big.
“These stories are happening in communities all over the country, but you never see them on the big screen,” she said. “We’re trying to change that.”
The Jersey-born rapper turned actress leads an all-star cast in “Perfect Holiday” with Morris Chestnut, Gabrielle Union, Academy Award(c) nominated actor Terrence Howard, Jill Marie Jones and comedians Charlie Murphy, Katt Williams and Faizon Love—they’re all along for the sleigh ride.
“Holiday” follows the romantic adventures of Nancy (Union) a divorced mom who falls for part-time mall Santa and aspiring songwriter Benjamin (Chestnut). Her kids are torn; the two little ones love Benjamin. The eldest prefers their absent, self-absorbed rapper dad J-Jizzy (Murphy). The drama, and the fun, escalates when the kids try to play matchmaker and Benjamin must ultimately choose between Nancy and the kids and his career.
“As a child, holidays are a time when you get out of school and you get lots of great presents, eat lots of really great food and spend time with your family, and honestly, as children, that’s all they need to know” says Chestnut, a father of two. “Our job as parents is to give our children time to enjoy life and believe in the simple things before they’ll have to deal with the realities of life once they are older and keeping family traditions and good values at home is one of the best ways to help prepare them for when they get older. This film is all about that.”
“The Perfect Holiday” explores these issues and more with a lot of humor...and heart. This deft combination helps highlight the struggles adults find themselves in, and possible ways to ease them and find strength in family, friends and loved ones.
Interestingly, the winter film was shot in August in 100-degree weather and that added more than enough heat for the strikingly handsome Chestnut. The romantic moments between Chestnut and Union will warm your heart and the movie’s tagline will make you laugh. It reads: This Christmas, the perfect man just happens to be Santa.
Murphy brings down the house with his P. Diddy inspired rapper extraordinaire character, J-Jizzy, who puts his career before family. It may be easy to vilify J-Jizzy for his overwhelming self-absorption, but the flip side to his work-oriented ways are evident. Most adults can relate to clocking their hours to get paid at the end of the day. “It wasn’t that J-Jizzy was a bad person,” says Murphy, who like his costars sympathizes with the demands of being a traveling entertainer. “His whole thing is that he is driven and a workaholic. In his mind, his thing is success and he’s doing everything necessary to be successful. As a result of that, his family is doing well. He can’t be there with them because of the way he works, but he is happy with the fact that they are comfortable.”
Ultimately, finding and accepting love in whatever form you can is the message of the “The Perfect Holiday.” “At the end of the day,” says Latifah. “This is about keeping that little bit of Christmas cheer and magic that in this cynical, dangerous world we can sometimes forget.”
“The Perfect Holiday” opens in theatres everywhere December 12.