Christmas has always been an elaborate production at the Whitfield home, and this year is no exception. With her grown children and their significant others all present for the first time in years, Shirley "Ma Dere" Whitfield (Loretta Devine
) is in her element. Stockings have been hung, cookies have been baked... and old resentments are starting to bubble up.
Oldest daughter Lisa (Regina King), also known as Sister, is trying to convince the rest of the family to sell the dry cleaning business their mother has run for years so her overly-ambitious husband Malcolm (Laz Alonso) will have the capital he needs to close an important business deal. Her sister Kelli (Sharon Leal), a high-powered business woman, is dead set against doing anything Malcolm wants. Youngest daughter Mel (Lauren London) is home from college and primarily interested in finding a private place to canoodle with her latest beau, Devean (Keith Robinson).
Ma Dere's son Claude (Columbus Short), an active duty Marine, arrives with some unexpected news while his younger brother Baby (Chris Brown) has a surprise of his own for the family. When estranged eldest son Quentin (Idris Elba), a jazz musician, makes a surprise appearance, he neglects to tell the family he's on the run from his gambling debts.
Despite her extensive preparations, Ma Dere's plans for a cozy holiday soon begin to evaporate. When the siblings head out to an L.A. nightclub for some fun, an off color remark by another patron sparks a fight and Claude ends up in jail. Meanwhile, Ma Dere is harboring some secrets of her own, such as the full extent of her relationship with longtime boyfriend Joseph Black (Delroy Lindo).
With their holiday seemingly on a collision course with disaster, it will take all the humor, heart and love the Whitfields can muster to survive This Christmas