Judge Patrick Naugle is as far from Urban Contemporary as one can possibly get.
It's going to be a bumpy holiday!
It's fifteen years after the events of The Best Man and the characters find themselves at some sort of moral crossroads. Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut, Kick-Ass 2) has become a pro football star with a grudge, supported by his loving wife Mia (Monica Calhoun, The Players Club). They have requested the company of their old friends for the holidays: writer Harper (Taye Diggs, Rent), who is struggling with a follow up his first novel and Lance's anger towards him; Harper's pregnant wife Robin (Sanaa Lathan, Alien vs. Predator); school headmaster Julian (Harold Perrineau, Lost) and his former stripper wife Candace (Regina Hall, Scary Movie); successful businesswoman Jordan Armstrong (Nia Long, Friday) and her handsome—and very white—boyfriend, Brian (Eddie Cibrian, The Cave); Julian's ex-wife and reality TV star Shelby (Melissa De Sousa, Biker Boyz); and hard partying, woman chasing, weed smoking Quentin (Terrence Howard, Iron Man). Together, they will learn the value of friendship, while discovering how to survive the holidays together.
For its budget, The Best Man was a sizable hit; sort of a romantic comedy for men, or cinema's answer to the female-driven Waiting to Exhale. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (director Spike Lee's cousin), the film was well-received by critics and audiences alike, who found the exploits and misadventures of these characters endearing and amusing. Fifteen years later, Lee revisits this world with the Christmas-themed The Best Man Holiday.
This is a movie that just doesn't speak to me, partly because I never saw the original. Apparently, a lot happened in that film that pops up here. Friendships were broken, affairs were had, and a lot of folks called each other bitches and hos. Regardless, even if I had seen the first film, it wouldn't have helped me appreciate this clichéd and predictable sequel any more than I did.
The cast is filled with likable actors who often do and say very unlikable things. The men are mostly macho, self-absorbed jerks who spend an inordinate amount of time discussing how good the women are at being sexual. Terrence Howard is the most amusing of the bunch; a boozy, weed-smoking womanizer that steps in every once in a while to offer up a funny zinger. He's so good, in fact, it feels as if he walked in from a different and far better movie. The rest of the ensemble falls just short of inert; Morris Chestnut is wooden, Regina Hall is shrewish, and Eddie Cibrian has all the charisma of a bowl of cold oatmeal. Save for Howard, none of these performances are even remotely memorable.
Eventually, The Best Man Holiday takes a left turn into Terms of Endearment territory, which brings the film's jovial holiday vibe to a grinding halt. I won't say what happened, but by the end it felt like I had downed an entire bottle of valium. The script spends way too much time on people discovering things at exactly the right moment. People stumble onto the right incriminating video on the wrong phone, iPads fall out of bags at just the right time with damning evidence on the screen, and characters are spied on at the exact sinful moment so often the story becomes a Three's Company episode. Normally, these misunderstandings can be cleared up with a simple explanation, one the screenplay never allows. At one point, Mia tells Lance he shouldn't be angry because he doesn't know the full story. "F—k the full story and f—k him!", Lance screams because, really, why would anyone want to pause to find out what the heck is actually going on?
I was never exactly sure why all these people had come together for the holidays in the first place. They bicker, fight, call each other names, insult their mates and children, and generally act like a collection of folks you'd bail on ten minutes after meeting them. The true low point of the film comes when four of the men do a Boyz-II-Men dance number as the women coo and cackle. The entire sequence felt like a desperate attempt at making the movie cool, when it just came off as silly and cheezy (yes, that's cheesy with a "z").
Universal's The Best Man Holiday (Blu-ray) is presented in 2.40:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition, and their work on this transfer is top notch. Colors are bright and vibrant, black levels solid and dark, and the visuals crystal clear. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track boasts a lush Stanley Clarke score that sometimes punctuates the action a little too much, and a lot of Christmas songs by artists like Ray Charles and Nat King Cole. Bonus features include a commentary track with writer/producer/director Malcolm D. Lee, a short gag reel, brief EPK featurettes ("Holiday Special: The making of The Best Man Holiday," "Filming the Girl Fight"), an alternate ending with optional commentary by Lee, a half hour worth of extended and deleted scenes; and DVD, Digital, and UltraViolet copies of the film.
Sadly, I just couldn't get into the The Best Man Holiday groove. There isn't a single endearing character, let alone an entry point for the audience to feel connected to any of these people. Its cobbled together from old tropes and situational beats that were creaky back in 1992. Let's face it, this is one Christmas gift that just isn't worth unwrapping.
Close to being one big lump of coal.
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