Sometimes a movie arrives with the dubious baggage of being both a Christmas movie and a belated sequel. The Best Man Holiday arrives 15 years after the fact as a followup to 1999’s The Best Man, which — is it a classic? it should be — was written and directed by Malcolm D. Lee. The first film was filled with funny, sharp dialogue and interesting characters who engaged in some very bad behavior against one another. Why hasn’t there been a sequel until now? Who knows, but this is one movie whose belated sequel isn’t an unwelcome one.
The Best Man Holiday could be characterized as an urban comedy. I guess that’s probably the best description of the movie if you had to place it in a neat category, but deep down, this is a movie about interpersonal relationships. Admittedly, the characters are often stock ones found in nearly any ensemble film about couples, but they interact with each other in weird, remarkable, and sometimes predictable ways. In other words, it’s a lot like life itself … only in much prettier and incredibly sumptuous surroundings.
The first film revolved around the wedding of Lance (Morris Chestnut) and Mia (Monica Calhoun). It was ridiculous fun even if the movie descended into a cliché of thrown punches because (as we are reminded during the sequel’s opening montage, and not the Sarah Jessica Parker type of montage) the titular best man, Harper (Taye Diggs) wrote a loosely autobiographic novel filled with his friends’ secrets. The montage also attempts — and doesn’t completely succeed — to get the audience up to speed on the other characters and their respective plights. That’s not a huge deal because this movie can be enjoyed (or not) on its own.
Fast forward to today, and Harper finds himself struggling to keep a foothold in the literary world. That book from over a decade ago was his only hit, and his wife, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), is in the late stages of pregnancy. So when his extremely rich old friends (Lance is a pro ball player; Mia is a cable-news talking head) decide to hold a big reunion and invite all their friends from the first movie, Harper sees an opportunity. He decides to use this holiday to dig up more information on Lance — because writing an unauthorized bio of your famous buddy is surely the best tactic to repairing a friendship, right?
Let’s just say old wounds have easily healed even when people appear to have moved on with their lives. This sequel’s set up is much like The Big Chill. We pick up on these people’s lives 15 years later with all sorts of crazy subplots and drama involved. The ensemble players are all back, and the sequel functions as a comedy of manners that will allow viewers to escape into the problems of other couples for a few hours. Julian (Harold Parrineau) and his wife, Candace (Regina Hall), are all hoity toity about running their own private school. Of course they’re haunted by Candace’s stripper past, and there’s a video to prove it. Harper’s ex-girlfriend, Jordan (Nia Long), arrives with a new boyfriend (Eddie Cibrian) in tow. Unrepentant playboy Quentin (Terrance Howard) serves as comic relief for the entire affair by calling everyone out for “their melodramatic shit.” This movie is a fancy ass soap opera and not about to apologize for it at all. Drama aside, the film is best when characters are merely hanging out and shooting the proverbial breeze.
Pic also looks great too. The first hour of this movie is sumptuous eye pr0n for those who will never be able to afford a lifestyle like this, but it’s also quite charming. Then the second full hour of the movie happens, and the soap-opera theatrics commence in full fury. We’ve got romantic dilemmas, money problems, fertility issues, life, death, and interracial romance. As a holiday film, The Best Man Holiday is a sugary confection with all sorts of emotional fireworks and unrealistic conflict and resolution. It is schmaltzy and overdramatic, but it has heart, goddamn it. The movie’s second half is way too preachy and ridiculous, but it’s a damn Christmas movie. A very, very adult Christmas movie, but one all the same.
The Best Man Holiday is overly long and clocks in at a full 120 minutes. The movie drags a bit in the overstuffed second half, but fans of the original will probably want to know what happens to these characters. I don’t point out the stock variety of these characters as an example in urban comedies. Instead, this is a problem with most ensembles in general. Maybe it’s not a problem but an strength, I don’t know. Of course if Lee hadn’t waited a full 15 years for a sequel, perhaps this movie needn’t have felt so cluttered. Oh well, maybe next time.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.