Title: The Best Man Holiday
That Title Makes No Sense. Well, it's a sequel to The Best Man, and it takes place during Christmas, so ... yeah, I don't get it either. It's like that was their placeholder and they ran out of time.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Eric Dickersons out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Old friends gather to celebrate Christmas and nurse 15-year old grievances.
Tagline: "Times change. Friendship doesn't."
Better Tagline: "Like The Big Chill, only with black people and less whining."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: It's been 14 years since their wedding and Lance (Morris Chestnut), now the starting running back for the New York Giants, and Mia (Monica Calhoun) are still together. The couple invite their friends to spend Christmas at their freakishly huge mansion. Reluctantly accepting the invite is Harper (Taye Diggs) -- whom Lance has yet to forgive for sleeping with Mia in college -- but he relents at the insistence of seriously pregnant wife Robin (Sanaa Lathan). Rounding out the gathering are Julian (Harold Perrineau) and ex-stripper wife Candace (Regina Hall), successful and single TV producer Jordan (Nia Long), freewheeling Quentin (Terrence Howard), and "Real Housewife" Shelby (Melissa De Sousa).
"Critical" Analysis: It's funny that Tyler Perry has become the most recognizable purveyor of African American romantic comedies, when it was arguably Malcolm D. Lee who made the most significant modern entry in the genre with 1999's The Best Man. Since then, Perry's directed some 15 films (half of them Madea movies) while Lee has made five, including a handful of ill-advised comedies (Scary Movie 5 and the Martin Lawrence flatliner Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins). So perhaps it isn't surprising that The Best Man Holiday, while still amusingly bawdy, is also easily as faith-based as any Perry movie. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that.
But it's also too bad, because in doing so, it weakens what could have been a much better adult "dramedy" about the effects of success (or lack thereof, in the case of the recently laid off Harper) and parenthood (or lack thereof, in the case of perpetual poon hound Quentin) on a group of old friends.
I emphasize the adult aspect because there really are few mainstream wide releases aimed at the over-35 crowd. And since middle-aged people are all reportedly terrfied of death, maybe that's why Lee felt the need to turn up the evangelical RPMs, even though there are enough solid comic moments -- as well as heavy drama - that would help the movie stand on its own without it. But unlike in Perry's movies, it never feels like we accidentally bought a ticket to Second Baptist.
Perhaps more aggravating is how great the cast still looks, no small feat considering none of them are younger than 42 (and Perrineau is 50, for crying out loud). I see pictures of myself from 1999 and wonder who that dark-haried creep with his arm around my wife is. Whatever daily regimen of exfoliating and/or bathing in puppy blood is responsible for this Dorian Gray shit, I want in.
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Well, everyone except Terrence Howard that is. But getting shot by your partner will generally leave a mark.
The "shocking" reveal that comes about halfway through won't shock anybody, considering the character in question might as well have a choir singing every time he/she shows up. On the other hand, I have to credit Lee for going where few of his Caucasian contemporaries would have, not just for introducing a subplot in which a major character may have been a hooker, but also for handling it with humor and (not much) moralizing. Admittedly, knowing Lee helmed Scary Movie 5, should certainly cause a few warning klaxons to go off, and the schmaltz force is heavy with this one, but he's perfectly adequate for seasonal comfort food like The Best Man Holiday.
"Comfort" is the operating word here. Sure, the film may include a funeral and a catfight that (realistically) ends up more depressing than titillating, but looking closer we see the framework made so profitable by Perry: faith, occasional bawdiness, and more faith. I just wish Lee trusted himself and his cast more to make The Best Man Holiday more distinctive.
The Best Man Holiday is in theaters today. You've got to pray, you've got to pray, just to make it today.