Nothing Like the Holidays 

Here's something you don't see every year: a new Christmas movie that isn't about characters who use the holiday as an excuse for making fools of themselves before learning in a swift 90 minutes The True Meaning of Christmas, which is, of course, that we should all get along "¦ at least until we start to annoy the hell out of each other again sometime around, oh, let's say, Dec. 27.

"Nothing Like the Holidays" spends a few days with the Rodriguez clan, a middle-class familia in Chicago. The grown kids are gathering for the first time in three years "? Jesse (Freddy Rodriguez, "Bottle Shock") has just returned from Iraq; Mauricio (John Leguizamo, "Miracle at St. Anna") and his Jewish wife, Sarah (Debra Messing, "The Women"); and little sister Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito, "Grindhouse"), a probably never-to-be-discovered actress living in Los Angeles. Circling them are best friends Johnny (Luis Guzman, "Dreamer") and Ozzy (Jay Hernandez, "Quarantine").

Jesse thinks that he is responsible for a death in his platoon, and he is also re-smitten with an old girlfriend who is now a mother and living with a man who truly loves her. Maruicio is struggling with Sarah over a job offer she's received that will prevent them from having the baby he "? and his parents "? so desperately want. Roxanna is up for a part in a replacement TV series, but is falling for Ozzy, who works in her father's bodega grocery store.

The script by Alison Swan and Rick Najera puts the family through the emotional wringer as each person is facing a life-changing decision. Yes, that's convenient, but these are nice people all. You can see yourself, family and friends in their joys and dilemmas. It's unlikely that everyone would be in a pay-attention-to-me situation all at the same time, but what would domestic melodrama be without some theatrical conventions?

Leading the group are Alfred Molina ("The Da Vinci Code") as dad Edy and Elizabeth Pe

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