There are plenty of movies like Nothing Like the Holidays, a broad, warm, aspirational ‘tis-the-season concoction about a raucous family — mom, dad, three grown kids, assorted significant other — reunited at Christmas. But there are relatively few families, at least in mainstream pop culture, who are so piquantly, cross-culturally Puerto Rican-Chicagoan as the Rodriguez clan. This gaggle has strong ties of affection and big, telenovela-worthy issues: The oldest son (John Leguizamo) is a high-powered New Yorker married to a supersonically powered Jewish hedge fund manager (Debra Messing) too busy to consider motherhood; the younger son (Freddy Rodriguez) is just back from a tour of duty in Iraq, with the horror of war still on his face; the daughter (Vanessa Ferlito) is a struggling actress in L.A.; and Papa (Alfred Molina) may be cheating on Mama (Elizabeth Peña).
The troubles are broad, the plot twists giant, and the performances cheery in this carol to ethnic pride in Chicago’s traditionally Latino Humboldt Park. And when the neighborhood gets together to march and make music in the annual Christmas celebration known as the parranda, the joy is contagious. B