Very Good (4 stars)
Running time: 123 minutes
After a 14-year hiatus, the cast of the 1999 romantic comedy-drama, The Best Man, reunites in this long overdue holiday-themed sequel. Malcolm D. Lee who wrote and directed the original film once again heads up the project and updates fans with the next chapter in the lives of his beloved group of friends with The Best Man Holiday.
The film begins where its predecessor ends with highlights from Lance (Morris Chestnut), and Mia’s (Monica Calhoun) wedding and Harper’s (Taye Diggs) proposal to Robyn (Sanaa Lathan). From there it quickly jumps to the present day with a brief update on the friends. Harper, who was extremely successful with his first book, “Unfinished Business”, is now a struggling author in need of another bestseller and expecting his first child with Robyn. Workaholic Jordan (Nia Long) is a thriving TV executive who still puts her career and independence over commitment. Blabbermouth Julian (Harold Perrineau) now a father of two girls finally put his big mouth to good use; he runs an private school with his former-stripper wife, Candace (Regina Hall). Lance is close to breaking the NFL’s rushing record and shares a picture perfect life with to his angelic wife, Mia and their four children. As for the two members of the group who are still single—Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), Julian’s bourgeoisie ex-girlfriend, is a single mom and reality star on “The Real Housewives of Westchester”. The jokester of the college buddies, Quentin (Terrance Howard), still immersed in his playboy ways, owns a flourishing marketing firm.
A struggling Harper is encouraged by his publisher to write a biography on his estranged friend Lance on the eve of him breaking an NFL record and retiring from football. Seeing this as an opportunity, he and Robyn accept Mia’s invitation to share the Christmas holiday at their home with the friends and their families. Mia has been persistently tried to get the crew together for some time with little success. Finally everyone commits to the weekend, and it will be the first time the since the wedding the nine friends have collectively seen one another.
But as they say, the more things change, the more things stay the same especially in this group. Lance is still irrefutably bitter with Harper about the affair in college with Mia. Robyn harbors insecurities and jealously with Jordan, and Shelby still visibly resents the relationship between Candace and Julian. As the holiday unfolds, the personal struggles and shortcomings of each of the friends create a whole new set of issues amongst them.
Its this ongoing tension that fuels the films cliché theme that friendship can overcome all obstacles, and stimulates a majority of the Best Man Holiday’s run of comedic and dramatic situations. Lee who both wrote and directed this sequel recaptures his characters’ tone with ease and makes seeing them again a homecoming of sorts for fans of the original film.
There were a few problems in this film that could not be overlooked. In Lee’s attempt to add a timeline to the story, some scenes ended abruptly, taking away a lot of the emotional intensity of the more dramatic, moments. The result is several scenes that leave the audience in limbo with more questions than answers. Lee makes a valiant effort to tie up all lose ends, but unfortunately several holes persist. Overall, the movie felt imbalanced due to the immense amount of events crammed into the second half of the movie, causing a disconnect with the plot and tone.
Technical glitches aside The Best Man Holiday is a welcomed and refreshing film. Lee successfully reunites his amazing cast and takes the audience on an emotion-filled ride for the holiday. This soul-stirring sequel is an instant classic and the perfect companion to its predecessor. And like the original – it continues to set a standard for urban contemporary films.