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Appealing cast put to appalling use

"The Perfect Holiday" is perfect only in its awfulness.

In the annals of Noel films so wincingly, gratingly, insultingly bad that a lump of coal would be vastly preferable,

The Perfect Holiday

ranks alongside

Surviving Christmas

for sheer unwatchability. Rarely have I worked so hard to suppress the gag reflex.

How can a film with dreamy Morris Chestnut, darling Gabrielle Union and those human sparkplugs Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard backfire so badly?

Let us count the ways:

(1) Sappy script. Union plays Nancy, estranged wife of hip-hop huckster J-Jizzy (Charlie Murphy), lonely and looking for love. Her adorable daughter Emily (Khail Bryant) asks Benjamin (Chestnut), an earnest songwriter working as a mall Santa, to send mom a man. Benjamin asks out Nancy. Misunderstandings ensue.

(2) Cheesy supernaturalism. In parts that feel tacked on to make the movie an iota less awful, Latifah and Howard respectively play an urban angel and a devil who try - and fail - to goose the plot.

(3) Tired satire. The character of J-Jizzy, a self-regarding amalgam of P-Diddy and Jay-Z, is so overplayed by Charlie Murphy (brother of Eddie) that the jokes are dead on arrival. (Among the cuts on J-Jizzy's Christmas album is a ditty called "I Love the Ho-Ho-Hos.")

Enough said.

The Perfect Holiday * (out of four stars)

Directed by Lance Rivera, written by Lance Rivera and Marc Calixte. With Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Charlie Murphy, Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.

Parent's guide: PG (sexual innuendo)

Showing at: area theatersEndText