Some of us are old enough to remember when Romany Malco was funny. “40 Year Old Virgin” and “Baby Mama,” even “Think Like a Man” Romany was edgy, testy, antic and funny.
None of which are in evidence in this tepid traipse into the tinsel. “Holiday Rush” is a rush-job Christmas comedy with romance that has maybe two laughs in it, one of them a flashback to Malco’s more manic past.
He plays Rush, a top rated New York DJ with all the trappings of affluence, and four kids who have never known want or struggle.
And then, BOOM, he’s fired. This is the first ridiculous thing that happens in “Holiday Rush.” One minute and his hand-holder/producer Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green) are prepping a presentation to buy part ownership of the urban music station they’ve made a success. The next minute, the station’s been bought, the manager (Deon Cole, trying way too hard) can’t protect them and a new syndicated pop program (hosted by a pretty blonde out of LA) is replacing them.
All this is crashing down on Rush ight before Christmas, too. How will he tell the twins, who want ponies for Christmas? The bling-fixated teen? The son with Harvard in his sights?
Rush is widowed, so it’s a good thing he’s got Aunt Jo (pop legend Darlene Love) there to critique his child-rearing.
“The richer you get, you greedier these kids get!”
She’s readier than he is to break the news to the spoiled brats that things are going to be a lot more like they were when SHE was a child — “Five of us, sharing ONE EGG!”
Dad’s more sanguine. “There’s a whole lot of ‘not happening’ that’s about to start happening.”
Roxy may have a plan, raise money to buy a competing station. That’s the SECOND ridiculous thing to pop up, here. You know what any New York FM station would go for these days? Millions and millions.
Rush has to ride herd on rebellious kids, put their suburban McMansion on the market to raise cash, and give the kids a taste of what Christmas is REALLY supposed to be about.
A visit from his dead wife, a little interior monologue as he recites his rewritten version of “The Night Before Christmas,” scheming at the old radio station (Tamala Jones is the corporate ball-breaker) to do their new radio station in, none of it adds up to anything funny.
A smart-aleck kid hamming through “Oh SNAP, I didn’t see ‘homeless’ on the menu,” a generous helping of screenwriterly “Afro-American slang” “up in here” cracks — “About to get ‘humbuggy in here,” etc. — a dad telling his daughter “Only rich kids play lacross” and all of them “We’ve all gotten a little…what’s the word?” “Bougie?”
Malco only gets up to speed once, a testy exchange with former neighbors over “Why aren’t you on the radio any more?”
The priority here is in not generating comic conflict and friction, not letting Malco and Cole and Jones mix it up. The kids aren’t funny enough to build the movie around them, the obstacles to “romance” don’t set off angry sparks.
And Love’s talents, in the Jenifer Lewis role, are best appreciated in song.
There’s little to this film that hints that “Holiday Rush” could have been saved. But mixing it up, more, centering more on the adult conflicts because the kids aren’t funny enough, might have reminded us that Malco can still be funny. This just makes that a distant memory.
Cast: Romany Malco, Sonequa Martin-Green, Deon Cole, Tamala Jones and Darlene Love
Credits: Directed by Leslie Small, script by Sean Dwyer, Greg Cope White. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:34