It seems quite apt that "The Best Man Holiday," a film about a reunion of old friends, feels just like going to an actual reunion. In ways both bad and good.
|‘THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY’
A reunion is only fun if you went to the school and recognize your friends. It’s certainly not fun if you didn’t, but were dragged along anyway. In that case, you’ll likely end up drinking white wine in a paper cup alone by a wall, watching everyone else get silly.
Likewise, "The Best Man Holiday," Malcolm D. Lee’s sequel to his (much better) 1999 "The Best Man," will probably be pleasant for those who saw the first film. Those who didn’t may feel like they’ve been dragged to someone else’s reunion.
And that’s too bad. The cast, reunited here, is largely excellent, led by the ever-charismatic Taye Diggs as Harper, an author with a fatal flaw: He can’t seem to stop writing about his friends and lovers.
It’s not the fault of the cast that these characters seem less fully formed now. It’s the fault of a script (also by Lee) that takes shortcuts, goes for sentimental overload, gets a little too swept up in holiday trappings and telegraphs plot developments in groan-worthy ways. (A character inadvertently leaves an iPad containing secret material sitting on a counter. Do we really then need an ominous close-up of it lying there?)
Those who saw the charming "The Best Man" will remember that the plot centered on a wedding. This time, it’s Christmas that brings everyone together.
The setting is the mansion of Lance and Mia, who wed in the first film. Lance (Morris Chestnut) is a star with the New York Giants playing his last season and chasing an NFL record for rushing, with time running out. Mia (Monica Calhoun) decides to hold a Christmas reunion.
That includes Harper (Diggs) and Robyn (the lovely Sanaa Lathan), married and expecting their first child. Harper’s first book, a novel that caused all sorts of trouble in the first film, was a huge success, yet he’s under financial pressure. His agent suggests a winner: an autobiography with his football-star friend. Cue more trouble.
Then there’s Jordan (an appealing Nia Long), the ambitious TV producer who carried a torch for Harper. She’s now dating a white man, Brian (Eddie Cibrian), a relationship that her friends comment on but is not explored much. Julian (Harold Perrineau), who freed himself from the manipulative Shelby (Melissa de Sousa) in the first film, is now married to sweet-hearted former stripper Candace (Regina Hall).
And happily, Terrence Howard is back to reprise his role of the rascally but somehow wise Quentin.
And the high jinks begin. They include an amusing boy-band number done on the fly by the guys and arguments that turn into fistfights (why do so many romantic comedies have to include women attacking each other over a man?).
There are, of course, old scores to settle. There’s also a tragic twist that becomes a major plot point. You will very likely cry.
But again, it’s like a reunion. If you already know these characters, you’re good. If you don’t, you’ll be standing against that wall, alone, sipping wine from a paper cup.
Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press