Lionsgate // 2012 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // December 23rd, 2012
Christmas miracles can happen anywhere!
It may have all of the makings of an instant flop, but Christmas in Compton is surprisingly earnest and playful in a way that keeps it from being a total wash.
Big Earl (Keith David, The Thing) runs a Christmas tree lot in Compton, California. He loves his community and tries to be a strong, positive influence on the kids in the city. His son Derrick (Omar Gooding, Deadwood) helps his dad as he can, but dreams of making it as a music producer and manager. Derrick has already had some now-famous music acts stolen from him, and he isn't about to let industry mogul Tommy Maxell (Eric Roberts, Less Than Perfect) steal his hot new act...even if it might ruin Christmas.
Let's just get it out there: Christmas in Compton is a mess. It has way, way too many characters for the 90-minute runtime, not to mention subplots. It frequently looks like it was filmed on the surface of the sun, and goes for every lazy joke and cliché imaginable. Honestly, though, by the end I kind of dug it.
For all of its faults, Christmas in Compton has a big heart. It doesn't try to hide its message of love and respect, and the cast approaches the material with such playfulness that I might want to pinch the movie on the cheek, if movies had cheeks. I guess it helps that some of the movie clicks; there's a pawnshop stickup, for instance, that has a fantastic visual gag that's outlandish and just right.
When it doesn't click, at least the corny stuff is bearable. I think it's partially because the two leads -- David and Gooding -- lend a good-natured charm to the movie, even when they're dealing with things like the silly romantic subplots foisted upon them. Director David Raynr and fellow screenwriters Robert Fedor and Suzanne Broderick find time to cram a dozen or so additional characters into the mix, giving almost all of them super-clichéd story arcs that make for a really busy 90 minutes. They manage to keep the big themes clear, though: respect yourself, love your family, try to help your community -- even when it's a place with a lot of problems, like Compton.
Lionsgate's release of Christmas in Compton skates by with a reasonable standard def treatment. Many of the scenes are either harshly bright or saturated with orange and teal, but that's not the disc's fault. The Dolby Digital 5.1 and stereo tracks sound overly busy, but aren't outright awful. Lionsgate left coal in the stocking in lieu of good extras: there's a mildly amusing music video, an image gallery, and a unnecessarily verbose commentary from Raynr and producer Michael Hubbard.
Christmas in Compton is a structural mess, but you still get an earnest yarn about doing the right thing with some good tunes and some genuine laughs. Sometimes, that's just enough for a Christmas movie.
It's a Christmas miracle! Not guilty (just barely).
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Music Video
* Image Gallery