Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review: The Best Man Holiday

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Despite the semi-bland title and director Malcolm D. Lee's insistence on throwing in more plot devices than you could count, "The Best Man Holiday" has its share of charms.

The film is a sequel to the director's surprise 1999 hit and the entire cast is back for this reunion. It helps more than a bit that the likability factor is pretty high for the entire cast and the characters feel like well-thought-out people.

For those unfamiliar with the original, Taye Diggs plays Harper Stewart, whose bestselling debut, "Unfinished Business," aired the dirty laundry of all his pals and former flings.

It's now 14 years later and Harper's relationship with former best pal Lance (Morris Chestnut), a pro football star for whom he was the best man in the original film, is strained following a revelation from Harper's book. Also, he's wrestling with a bad case of writer's block.

But Lance's sweet natured wife, Mia (Monica Calhoun), believes that Lance should celebrate the holidays with his former friends - and their romantic interests - since he will be playing a game on Christmas Day during which he is expected to break an all-time rushing record.

So, once again we get to catch up with Lance, Mia and Harper as well as Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Harper's pregnant wife, lothario Quentin (a scene stealing Terrence Howard), vixen Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), teacher Julian (Harrold Perrineau), Candace (Regina Hall), a former stripper who is now Julian's wife, and Jordan (Nia Long), who was Harper's girl-that-got-away.

There's another real reason why the gang all reunites - and although I won't give it away here, it's one of the film's many plot devices, but also the one that has the most emotional impact. Stevie Wonder's "As," which was used during a romantic moment between Harper and Jordan during the first film is used again here, but for a much more tragic scenario.

The other plot devices on-hand come in abundance - a catfight between two women, one of whom - I kid you not - is supposed to be a Real Housewife of Westchester, as well as a rushed trip to the emergency room, mistaken infidelity, you name it.

But "The Best Man Holiday," despite being a bit overstuffed, is a pretty enjoyable experience nonetheless. The cast manages to rekindle that vibe that you're actually hanging out with an old group of friends, rather than a bunch of actors pretending to do so.

The film is often funny, moving when it needs to be and earnest in a good way. I could have probably done without all the schmaltzy Christmas tunes, but hey, there's some Ol' Dirty Bastard, Stevie Wonder and New Edition in there too.

Most cast reunion movies feel like an attempt to cash in - "American Reunion," anyone? - but "The Best Man Holiday" actually justifies its existence. I wouldn't mind spending more time with these characters, but let's hope Lee - should he choose to make another "Best Man" film - doesn't wait another 14 years.

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