15 November 2013 0 Comments

“The Best Man Holiday”…14 Years Later!

From left, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau and Terrence Howard suit up for ‘The Best Man Holiday.’

 From left, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau and Terrence Howard suit up for ‘The Best Man Holiday.’

In 1999, Malcolm D. Lee had an unexpected hit with “The Best Man,” a romantic dramedy about African-American friends figuring life out together. It would be nice to think that viewers waited 14 years for a sequel only because everyone involved in the original was too busy working on other movies. But in an industry that still visualizes projects in black and white, there may have been other factors at play. Why, after all, has most of this movie’s cast — all talented, all movie-star gorgeous — met with only limited mainstream success? That’s not to say they haven’t found their footing since appearing in “The Best Man.” Each has worked steadily in films and TV. But come on, Hollywood,  Taye Diggs and Nia Long should be go-to names for any big-budget popcorn project by now.

Sanaa Lathan in 'The Best Man Holiday'

Sanaa Lathan in ‘The Best Man Holiday’

While Diggs’ Harper provided a focus for the first film, the sequel shifts its center to Monica Calhoun’s Mia. After marrying in the original, Mia and Lance (Morris Chestnut), a superstar Giants running back, have four children and a seemingly perfect life. But Mia desperately misses her old friends, who have drifted apart. So despite Lance’s reluctance, she invites them all to their suburban mansion for Christmas.

Everyone shows up, but some participants are less enthusiastic than others. Best-selling author Harper has an ulterior motive for attending, and doesn’t realize his pregnant wife, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), is stressed about him reconnecting with former flame Jordan (Long).
Similarly, Candace (Regina Hall) and Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) look set to reprise their competition over Julian (Harold Perrineau), who is grappling with a shocking revelation. As for ever-mischievous bachelor Quentin (Terrence Howard), he’s gleefully ready to cause trouble. Lee doesn’t waste time playing catch-up, so it’s worth watching “The Best Man” again before revisiting these complicated lives. As long as you know all the players, you’ll delight in their new highs and lows: makeups and breakups, birth and death, faith and forgiveness. (The religious element is stronger this time around.)

From l., Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa and Nia Long in ‘The Best Man Holiday’

From left, Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa and Nia Long in ‘The Best Man Holiday’

The film does feel overlong and the tone is occasionally wobbly. But Lee keeps the pace generally steady, mixing comedy and melodrama in even amounts. Most of all, it’s a pleasure to see each of the actors enthusiastically returning to the roles that helped kickstart their careers. De Sousa, bound by a thankless part in the original, turns out to be a comic delight, while Calhoun’s luminosity deepens her soapy story line. Chestnut and the Oscar-nominated Howard, who has had the most box-office success, are adept team players.  But it’s Long and Diggs who really stand out, with charisma to burn. The movie ends with a setup for another sequel, which will undoubtedly be embraced by fans. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 14 years to see it.

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