Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and proud ethnic enclaves, none more proud than the Puerto Rican community of Humboldt Park. A tall iron Puerto Rican flag straddles Division Avenue just west of Western Avenue, ushering motorists down the main drag through the neighborhood and leaving no doubt about the heritage of the local residents. If there was any doubt, show up on Puerto Rican National Day, when the area's streets are transformed into a kind of merry-go-round by flag-festooned cars touring the neighborhood and blaring their horns. I used the live in the middle of it all, three blocks from the flag.
Nothing Like the Holidays uses this rich cultural backdrop as a stage for its tale of a Puerto Rican family reuniting at Christmastime. The Rodriguez clan converges at the home of parents Eddy and Anna to celebrate the safe return of the youngest son, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez), from combat in Iraq. Sister Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito) flies in from LA where she's struggling to get traction as an actress, and big brother Mauricio (John Leguizamo) flies in from New York where he's on the verge of becoming a partner in a big-time law firm. Being back in Humboldt Park makes the siblings take stock of their lives since leaving home. And when Anna announces she's leaving Eddy, lingering regrets and fears about the future surge to the surface.
So much dramatic texture, not to mention comedic potential! But like a flan that falls flat, Nothing Like the Holidays fails to deliver on its tasty promise.
The movie seems to be caught in a kind of limbo between conventional holiday fare, complete with sight gags and sleigh bells, and a more sober look at issues as serious as the consequences of wartime decisions, revenge killings, and terminal ...1