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THIS CHRISTMAS

A World Of Music
The fireside is blazing bright  We're caroling through the night  And this Christmas will be  A very special Christmas for me

While writing the script for This Christmas, Preston Whitmore thought a lot about his fondest Christmas memories. "Donny Hathaway's song, This Christmas, came right to my mind. And I said, that's what I'm going to call this movie. I don't care where you are or what you're doing, when you hear the chorus, it brings back memories. There's nobody that hasn't heard this song. And the studio actually owned it and was accommodating about putting it in the movie.”

Music is a theme that is woven throughout the film. The absent Mr. Whitfield has abandoned his family to become a professional musician. Quentin, the eldest son, plays the saxophone for a living and Baby wants to launch a singing career, but is afraid to tell his mother. 

Regina King believes the film's emphasis on music hits just the right chord, so to speak. "I don't know a black person who's grown up where music did not play a big part in their household,” she says. "And not necessarily always R&B. It could be jazz, it could be blues, a combination of all three. But music is huge in every black family's home.” 

Lauren London agrees. "Music is really big in black culture, period. I know in my family, if we have a hard time, I'll put on some music and we'll sing about it.”

Each of the songs featured in This Christmas were chosen because they underscore the idea of family. Executive Producer Paddy Cullen remembers a discussion about one of the songs for the scene in which the family does a ‘Soul Train' style line dance in their living room. "We wanted it to be something old school that everyone could relate to, from Ma' Dere to the grandkids. That's something a lot families have, a song that's been in their family forever.” 

With a vocalist as talented as Chris Brown in the cast, it was inevitable that he would contribute a song or two to the film. "This Christmas” was an obvious choice, and Whitmore chose another classic, "Try a Little Tenderness,” to showcase the young performer's voice. But attempting a song that R&B great Otis Redding made his trademark, as well as Donny Hathaway's classic holiday tune, was no mean feat. "You're talking about legends,” says Whitmore. "Listening to him doing those songs, I think this kid eventually will become a legend himself.” 

"I wasn't too familiar with the song,” admits the teenaged Brown of "Try A Little Tenderness.” "I know Sam Cooke sang it, and a lot of other different people, too. I probably heard it a couple of times, but I didn't really know what it was. Hopefully, I'm doing justice to all the veterans who've done this song, as well as to ‘This Christmas.'” 

Brown is characteristically modest about his performance of the two classic songs. "At the end of the movie, I sing "This Christmas,” he says. "I tried to add my own flavor to the music side of things, and tried to bring it with the old school. I really wanted to change it up a little bit, but still keep that soulful essence.” 

Whitmore was suitably impressed with his young star's musical talents. "I saw him at a concert, and I swear to God, it was like seeing the Beatles. The little girls were just going bananas. I haven't seen anybody do what he does, probably, since Michael Jackson. And we all know that Michael Jackson is the King of Pop. 

"When Baby sings `This Christmas' at the end of the film in church, in this elegant setting, it's going to be nostalgic for a lot of people who are familiar with the Donny Hathaway song,” adds Whitmore. "And it's going to introduce an entirely new, younger audience to the song.” 

Near the film's climax, gospel singer DeNetria Champ delivers a rousing version of "O Holy Night” to a packed church. "She w

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