There are no ingredients in Nothing Like the Holidays that you're not already familiar with from other big-crazy-family Christmas movies. Then again, so what? The Christmas breakfast my mom makes every year never has anything new either -- in fact, there would be open rebellion if it did -- and that suits everyone just fine.
Nothing Like the Holidays is warm and comfortable in that way, mostly pleasant, mostly well acted, and moderately entertaining. Directed by Alfredo De Villa (Washington Heights), it boasts a luminous ensemble of Latino actors as two generations of Puerto Ricans living in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. It captures the cultural flavor of their yuletide festivities and intra-family squabbling without being so specific that non-Latino audiences can't appreciate it. Details aside, anyone with a family can relate to most of what happens here.
What happens is that the Rodriguez family gathers for Christmas. Edy (Alfred Molina) and Anna (Elizabeth Peña), married for 36 years, own a neighborhood bodega and eagerly anticipate the reunion of their three children. Their oldest, Mauricio (John Leguizamo), is married to a Jewish girl, Sarah (Debra Messing), and they both work for a law firm in New York. The youngest, Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), has been trying to break into showbiz in Hollywood. The middle child, Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez), is a Marine who has been discharged after three years in Iraq, just in time for the holidays. Buffoonish lothario and electronics store owner Cousin Johnny (Luis Guzman) is there, too, and so is Ozzy (Jay Hernandez), a former thug who now works for Edy.