Review: The Best Man Holiday
PLOT: Years after the events of the first film, Harper (Taye Diggs) is once again a struggling writer, trying to make ends meet while caring for his fragile, pregnant wife (Sanaa Lathan). He thinks he has it made when his agent suggests he write a biography of his former best friend-turned NFL superstar Lance (Morris Chestnut), and he joins the rest of his estranged friends for a holiday reunion to get the permission he needs.
REVIEW: First thing's first- I've never seen THE BEST MAN, so I'm probably not the ideal person to be reviewing the sequel. However, as a fan of many of the people involved- from the underrated Taye Diggs to director Malcolm D. Lee (who made the hilarious UNDERCOVER BROTHER)- I hoped BEST MAN HOLIDAY might prove to be somewhat more inspired than its hopelessly generic title suggests (they might just as well have called it BEST MAN SEQUEL).
Having waited a full fourteen years to make the follow-up, you can't blame director Lee for trying to make the most of his sequel. But, THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY is a film at odds with itself. One the one hand, it's a slightly risqué adult reunion film, with broad laughs, and a lot of goodwill coming from the fact that the cast has such damn good chemistry. On the other, at 122 minutes it's too long, and half-way through it suddenly switches gears and becomes a full-on drama, with evangelical Christian overtones that have been carefully hidden from any of the ads, and feel like an odd addition to what started out as a racy, fun romp.
The movie's biggest strength is undeniably the cast. Diggs, along with the ridiculously muscled Morris Chestnut (convincingly playing an NFL all-star), scene-stealing Terrence Howard, and likable Harold Perrineau really do make you believe that they're life-long friends, and their chemistry is undeniable. Howard is especially funny as the gang's studly wildcard, and it's him that keeps the film going when it hits slow spots with a good weed joke or two or a funny one-liner. It's nice to see him cut loose and have some fun.
The same mostly goes for the ladies too, with Sanaa Lathan and Nia Long obviously just as beautiful as they were ten years ago, even if both characters feel slightly underwritten. At least Long gets something to do by by having an inter-racial love interest- Jon Hamm-clone Eddie Cibrian- who she's having trouble committing to. Regina Hall- as Perrineau's wife- is given the most obnoxious plot line, with a video of her former stripper days becoming an unlikely YouTube sensation that puts Perrineau's charter school into jeopardy. Melissa De Sousa turns up as Perrineau's ex-turned reality TV star who's inexplicably invited for the weekend despite everyone hating her. She's so unpleasant one wonders why she was included at all. Finally there's Monica Calhoun as Chestnut's saintly-wife, who's presented as a such a good, christian lady that she might as well spend the movie walking around with a halo over her head. An early remark about her looking tired and having lost weight should clue in savvy audience-members as to where the film is going.
It's here that THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY starts to get a little unwieldy. Clearly, Lee was trying to make something more than just another holiday comedy but the fact that the movie gets so religious is peculiar. There's nothing wrong with having characters be religous or devoted to their faith, but the fact is the movie starts to become downright preachy, with character's being ridiculed for not having faith. Chestnut and Calhouns are presented as so devout and perfect in their spirituality that they barely seem human towards the end, and are as cardboard as any characters you'd see in a truly evangelical film like COURAGEOUS or FIREPROOF. This may resonate with religious audiences, but others will have a hard time swallowing the preachy vibe of the film's second half.
Despite, or maybe even because of this odd turn, one can at least say that BEST MAN HOLIDAY isn't just another cynically made sequel designed to cash-in. At the very least Lee and co., had something they were trying to say with the sequel, but whether or not people will respond to it is another question, The again, given the enthusiastic response the film got at the promo screening I attended, maybe they will. The film ends on a note that suggests a third film, and the chemistry of the cast is enough to make a follow-up a no-brainer. THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY isn't a bad movie by any stretch, but the preachy detour can't help but feel manipulative and hopefully if there's a third, it will be less blatant.
|Extra Tidbit:||Given the audience reaction to a dance number set to New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain" they may as well just make the next one a musical.|