Published Nov 14, 2013The Best Man was an early entry into the world of African-American ensemble dramedys, a male-targeted answer to Waiting to Exhale, which made its sentimental tone somewhat novel in 1999. Today, the field of film is crowded with similar pictures, Tyler Perry having built a media empire on such fare.
Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee (Spike Lee's cousin) wastes no time reintroducing his four protagonists, starting the film with scenes from the original's wedding celebration. The ensuing decade and a half gap is filled in by quick flashbacks and a montage that delivers some key information far too quickly.
The college friends are brought back together after Lance (Morris Chestnut), now the NFL's top running back, and his wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) — the groom and bride from the first film — invite the gang to their palatial home for the holidays.
Harper (Taye Diggs) is now married to Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), who's expecting their first child, although his moderate success as a writer has put them in a financially precarious position. Julian (Harold Perrineau) married Candace (Nia Long), the stripper he left Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) for in the first film; the surfacing of a bachelor party video that reveals her unsavoury past has put his job in jeopardy. Quentin (Terrence Howard), meanwhile, has managed to remain single, retaining his youthful mischievousness.
Got all that?
Everyone has experienced degrees of success and all lead happy lives, but no one seems to have learned to communicate properly. The Best Man Holiday is propelled by a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings between the friends that bring old jealousies to the fore. However, the revelation that Mia has cancer — her impetus for the reunion — puts most of the group's trivial squabbles to rest.
It all plays out like a sitcom driven by a lot of plot and little substance. It's hard to find much to like in many of these people — they're mostly flat, stock characters riddled with personal flaws that Lee chooses to mostly ignore. Curiously, it's Howard's Quentin, the "bad boy" of the group, who proves once again to be the film's most enjoyable character, so the movie ends with him announcing his engagement, thereby setting up an inevitable third instalment in the franchise.
Unambitious both in story and execution, Lee's film nevertheless hits its modest goals of sentimentality peppered with the occasional piece of broad comedy. If films like The Wood, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, or Tyler Perry's more saccharine flicks are your bag, this movie will certainly satisfy. However, there's nothing here that's going to convince the unconverted.