By Samantha Ofole-Prince
In this pleasantly predictable comedy, Latifah plays Georgia Byrd, a shy, churchgoing salesclerk who lives a relatively frugal and moderate lifestyle. With big dreams of opening her own gourmet restaurant, she enjoys cooking and has the flair of a master chef even though she prefers a low calorie oven heated Lean Cuisine to her own artistic creations. When a medical misdiagnosis leads her to believe that she only has three weeks to live, she quits her job, withdraws her entire savings and embarks on a dream vacation to Central Europe for Christmas (hence the title). With little time and a big budget, Georgia is determined to have the vacation of a lifetime. Choosing a presidential suite at $4,000 a night at the Grandhotel Pupp (pronounced poop), where important guests such as a congressman and a senator from Georgia’s home state of Louisiana are vacationing, she is mistaken for someone much more powerful and influential by fellow guests. With money and a new acquired status her newly uninhibited personality shakes up the hotel staff and guests alike, including veteran chef Didier (Gerard Depardieu), and the wealthy and egotistical Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton), the CEO of the retail store where she previously worked.
From snowy slopes to spectacular spas, delectable dinners to midnight balls and shopping sprees reminiscent of the movie Pretty Woman, this modernized remake of the 1950 British comedy (Last Holiday), which starred Alec Guinness as a salesman with a few weeks to live is short on giggles. The laughs and stunts are limited and the exaggerated snowboard race down a steep hillside goes on too long and relies too heavily on unconvincing stunt doubles. To her credit, Latifah is an on screen gem. With her contagious charm she is credible as the unassuming shy Georgia – a far cry from her customary bold and sassy onscreen persona previously seen in other movies like Beauty Shop, Taxi and Bringing Down the House. The supporting cast also measures up, with Gerard Depardieu as the cranky and eccentric chef who finds a kindred spirit in Georgia and an underused LL. Cool J as Sean, her former co-worker with a romantic interest, who races to Europe after he learns the truth about her condition.
Last Holiday sends a clear message on the idea of living for the moment and the preciousness of life and the unpredictability of fate, but is merely just another standard comedic tale of an ugly duckling that transforms into a beautiful swan. Lukewarm is the apt description for this one.