Film Review – The Best Man Holiday
The Best Man Holiday
Under the category “Sequels That Never Needed To Exist But Here It Is Anyway” comes The Best Man Holiday, the follow-up to The Best Man (1999). The first film didn’t change the world by any stretch of the imagination, but I did appreciate it for its entertainment value and strong chemistry among the main cast. A lot of that translated into this latest entry, with all the actors returning and Malcolm D. Lee once again taking writing and directing duties. It’s clear everyone involved had a good time, but does that make for an effective movie? There are parts where it really gets going, especially when the cast gets to play off one another. But while the first film knew what it was going for, this one juggles a number of different elements, creating an uneven tone it never fully recovers from.
A lot has happened since we last saw this group of friends. Harper (Taye Diggs) married Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), and they are now expecting a child. Lance (Morris Chestnut) has become a football legend, on the verge of breaking NFL records, with Mia (Monica Calhoun) and his kids by his side. Julian (Harold Perrineau) and Candace (Regina Hall) have their own family as well, and continue to pursue fundraising ventures despite the lack of potential donors. The snotty and high-maintenance Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) gained fame and fortune as a reality TV star. Jordan (Nia Long) continues to be the self-sufficient career woman, and Quentin (Terrence Howard) is still the skirt-chasing troublemaker he’s always been.
Let’s flash back for a moment. The main crisis of The Best Man involved Harper writing a detailed book airing out all the dirty laundry about the group, especially between himself and Lance. That created a rift between them that cut fairly deep. Those issues still linger in the present, when Lance and Mia invite everyone over for a reunion during the Christmas holidays. Low on cash and desperate for a bestseller, Harper struggles with the temptation to write yet another book about his once good friend—this time a biography—even though he knows Lance would never go for it.
Oh, and there are other issues as well, all of which get brought to the surface during the few days everyone is together. This is where the narrative works the most, as each person awkwardly tries to maneuver around everyone else without causing any drama, often failing. Past indiscretions are revisited, jealousies arise, and plenty of passive-aggressive behaviors come tumbling out. Buttons are not just pushed—they’re slammed with a clenched fist. Events that took place in the first film dictate a lot of the actions taken here. This is basic sitcom material for sure, but surprisingly it’s where the most enjoyment comes from. Most of the clichés are almost forgiven due to the cast, all of whom once again bring a level of charm and ease to their performances. They have a great way of interacting, and can play up the comedy right up to the point of absurdity.
I say “almost forgiven” because despite how good the cast is, they can’t entirely make up for the weakness in the writing. The tone moves back and forth between screwball comedy and low-level melodrama. When Lee decides to take the story to more serious places, he loses all momentum established with the earlier, funnier scenes. He tries to shoehorn in a major plot twist that does not feel natural, thus sinking the narrative to resemble something along the lines of a made-for-TV movie. The plot twist only seems to be included as an easy way to resolve many of the issues between the characters, as though everything will be forgotten now that this thing has occurred. And because of the twist (along with the all the different plot threads occurring at the same time), the film falters in trying to find the right ending. It works too hard to clean everything up into a nice, neat package, extending the third act far longer than it needs to. It never hits the right note to end on, and instead cuts off in mid-sentence.
I like being around these characters, and wouldn’t mind visiting them again sometime down the line. There’s authenticity in the way they talk and work with each other. Even when they’re fighting, they do so in a very organic fashion. It’s too bad they exist in a story that lacks the same charisma they have. The Best Man Holiday settles for a recycled plot, stepping away from the elements that make these people fun to watch, and places heavy-handed, manipulative devices in an attempt to garner some false sentimentality. It tries to be too many things, instead of trying to do one thing successfully. This constant shift prevents a good cast from really taking off. If we see these friends again, hopefully we’ll see them for who they are and not for what the script forces them to be.