Nine friends from college reunite for the holidays, several years after last seeing one another. The Christmas gathering results in love, laughter, tears, more than a few tiffs, and some serious heartbreak – but the group never wavers in their commitment to one another.
[Review contains spoilers.]
The Best Man Holiday is the much-anticipated sequel to the sleeper hit, The Best Man. Why it took fifteen years for this popular rom-com to get the follow-up treatment is a mystery, but fans of the first film won’t be disappointed.
The movie kicks off with a nice intro, filtering in segments of The Best Man in order to give new viewers a reference for these deeply entrenched characters. (My personal recommendation is to see the original before trekking to the theater. The background is worth it. The wait for the DVD via Netflix will surely increase with this release, though an Amazon VOD remains inexpensive.)
The Best Man Holiday finds writer Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) struggling to match the success of his breakout novel. He hasn’t had a best seller in ages and he’s starting to feel the financial pressure. Adding additional stress is the fact that his gorgeous wife, Robin (Sanaa Lathan), is weeks away from delivering their first child. Despite a lack of funds, the two agree to trek to the country at the behest of Mia Sullivan (Monica Calhoun) to celebrate the impending holidays. Too bad Mia’s husband Lance (Morris Chestnut) still holds a major grudge against Harper, kicking the weekend off to a mighty uncomfortable start!
The awkwardness is temporarily shelved as the rest of crew starts to arrive, including the now married brainy Julian (Harold Perrineau) and former stripper Candy Murch (Regina Hall) who run a non-profit school together, career-obsessed Jordan Armstrong (Nia Long), business mogul Quentin Spivey (a hilariously unctuous Terrence Howard), and reality-TV sensation Shelby (Melissa De Sousa, a standout as the group’s drama queen turned Real Housewives cast mate). Eddie Cibrian also makes a few appearances as Brian, Jordan’s love interest that she holds at arm’s length.
I want to join this party! My holiday reunions feature surprisingly few dance sequences to cheer on.
The chemistry is brilliant and the actors are all topnotch, which is why it’s a huge disappointment when cancer enters the picture. Not that Monica Calhoun and Morris Chestnut don’t handle Mia and Lance’s fate with incredible depth – their portrayal of a couple facing crushing odds is a true tearjerker. But they – and the audience – deserve better. The real issue is in writer/director Malcolm D. Lee’s choice to introduce this as a plot device. The disease, while an all too common and devastating event in real life, is the epitome of laziness when it comes to writing storylines for film and television. It takes something of quality and veers it into Lifetime Television territory, instead of taking the time to discover what else could happen to the characters. When cancer enters the picture, it hijacks the rest of the movie. It’s not fair, especially when you have an audience that’s been waiting 15 years for storyline resolutions. It feels cheap. And that’s a shame.
That’s right – we did just dominate the box office!
Because of this, the film could draw another pint or two (especially for the childbirth scene in a moving car – yep). But I can’t bring myself to add the suds because this flick doesn’t deserve it. Believe it or not, this is an important film. And I hope Hollywood finally recognizes it. The Best Man Holiday is crushing it at the box office – and it’s not due to a fluke or light-release weekend. It’s because African Americans long to have the experience that Caucasians get every weekend – that of seeing themselves portrayed in positive ways on the big screen. The Best Man franchise depicts normal people living normal lives – they’re happy, successful, in love, and looking forward to their futures. Do you realize how infrequent this is? It’s shamefully rare. Best Man star Sanaa Lathan has this to say:
[I think audiences, especially African-American audiences, were hungry to see themselves or see people that they know onscreen. And I think that this movie — along with some other movies at the time, Love Jones was another one – really depicted people that we know personally. And I think that now, once again, 15 years later, there’s still that hunger.]
The fact that The Best Man Holiday knocked Thor: The Dark World out of the top box office spot to start the weekend is no mistake. There’s a massive audience out there waiting for more than just the shoddy proselytizing of Tyler Perry. One can only hope Hollywood execs hear the call.
The plot leans too hard on tears when the laughter is more than enough, but the sight of these characters reuniting makes up for it.
Take a Drink: every time Harper tries too hard with Lance.
Take a Drink: every time Quentin says something dirty.
Take a Drink: every time Shelby stirs up some drama. Bonus shot for the profanity-laden catfight!
Take a Drink: every time there’s a love scene.
Take a Drink: every time Lance and Mia do something sweet.
Happily, the last moments allude to the possibility of turning this into a threequel. However, there are no extra scenes – just sniffles as the audience files out after this joyful and heartrending roller coaster.