Twas the Chaos Before Christmas is a TV movie originally airing on December 7, 2019 on the BET Network. It was written by Cas Sigers-Beedles (For Richer or Poorer, Merry Wishmas) and directed by Terri J. Vaughn (Soul Santa, Hip Hop Holiday). It features an ensemble cast including Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, Sherri Shepherd, Affion Crockett, Victoria Rowell, Malachi Malik, Jasmyn T. Curry, Marquita Goings, Jejuan Smith and Tyra Joy Smith.
Entrepreneur Jayla Mitchell (Cynthia Kayye McWilliams) and her husband Morgan (Malachi Malik) decide to take a little vacation from their home in New York. While Jayla wants to go to Hawaii, Morgan has a presentation in Washington DC, so Jayla makes a reservation at a great Air BNB for them and their daughter. Meanwhile, Valerie Russell (Sherru Affuib Shepherd) decides to take her family on a vacation as well to spend some of the $10,000 in lottery winnings and also so her husband Ed (Crockett) can see his little sister. She too reserves a “nice place” in DC, and, like other Christmas movies, it happens to be the same house as the other family.
The two families couldn’t be any more different. While the Mitchells are very professional and noticeably upper class, the Russells are a close family who appear to be of lesser income. The Mitchells wake up to the Russells entering the home and they realize they both rented the same house due to the owners getting a divorce and both putting the house up for rental. They agree to work it out in the morning.
Morning comes and the Russells are making breakfast while Jaya is upset their chef canceled. A meeting is called where the men decide to have a race to determine who gets the main bedroom. Morgan loses but then beats Ed at a game of pool winning $150. Morgan later realizes Ed was laid off at work and tries to give him back the $150 which he refuses. Jayla continues to have issues with Valerie and tries to mend fences by giving Valerie a facial which ends badly. Meanwhile, Valerie’s daughter sees Morgan meeting with another woman and determines he is having an affair.
Back at the house, each of the secrets is exposed. Turns out the woman Morgan was meeting was actually Jayla’s estranged sister. Meanwhile, the family’s respective children go missing after they begin to have feelings for each other leading the families into a frantic search to find the two kids. We eventually find them and the true reason for their running away together is revealed.
The premise of two families renting the same house is definitely not new in the Christmas genre. I reviewed a recent one here on this site called Christmas in the Pines. That being said, the Mitchell and Russell families are fun to watch through the one-hour and 23-minute film. Jayla is seen as incredibly uncaring and self-centered throughout the film, even calling the Russell’s son “hood” which provides one of the turning points of the story right when we think the families are about to get along.
The cinematography in the film moved the movie along at a good pace and the breakout character in the film was definitely Affion Crockett as Ed Russell. His mannerisms and extreme joy at playing the role were very endearing and complemented Shepherd’s role of Valerie incredibly well.
Of particular frustration with the film, however, was the lack of good sound design. I listen to movies with headphones on at home so I can pay better attention and get the full experience. Throughout the film, the noise level changes when cutting from camera angle to another angle. In addition, the sound of fans on studio lights is distinctly heard in many of the scenes as a low hum in the background. One particular scene also holds what I can only think is a goof when you can see a police patrol car in the background blocking off the alleyway where the scene is being shot.
All in all though, a fun film. There is a strange segment towards the end of the film involving marijuana that is unneeded but helps set up one of the surprises in the climax.
This film would primarily interest older teens and adults, as it may be too slow in pacing for younger kids,