Hackneyed Movie Convention #137: In a bid to impress a woman a man tells a whopping lie that will inevitably come to light, thus sabotaging a relationship that he's trying to forge. It's one thing to make up a sexy occupation—say, architect or marine biologist, to name two George Costanza favorites—when trying to score in the short term, but eventually, per Costanza, she's going to find out you're unemployed and live with your parents. Generally, this device is used to keep romantic comedies from ending after 15 minutes, and it's particularly clumsy in The Perfect Holiday, which centers on a couple so moon-eyed and beautiful that the man could harvest orphans' organs for a living and it would scarcely matter.
It's a measure of the film's lack of imagination that Morris Chestnut, as an aspiring songwriter logging time as a mall Santa, can't even think of a good fake occupation. Chestnut can't be blamed for being a little tongue-tied around Gabrielle Union, who plays a glamorous single mother of three, but he tries to impress her by claiming that he sells office supplies. He even offers her some pens, no doubt praying to the heavens that she doesn't take him up on it. From this bizarre foundation of lies, they start dating and fall for each other in short order, but there are other obstacles in their way, like Union's ex-husband (Charles Q. Murphy), a self-centered Diddy-like rap mogul named J-Jizzy, and her oldest son, who still thinks daddy's coming home some day. Things are further complicated when Murphy decides he needs a good single for his new Christmas album and Chestnut just might be the fresh young talent he's been looking for.
Perhaps hamstrung by its PG rating, The Perfect Holiday makes the safest, blandest choices possible in delivering some Christmas cheer for the whole family. As Chestnut's best friend and co-worker, Faizon Love is brought on for comic relief, but the only real joke is that he's too oversized to squeeze into an elf suit. That leaves the odd spectacle of Queen Latifah and a slumming Terrance Howard as "Mrs. Christmas" and "Bah Humbug," who act as a sort of Greek chorus that spars on the sidelines. Mrs. Christmas gets the best of Bah Humbug most of the time, but as far as The Perfect Holiday itself is concerned, he comes away the clear winner.