Review: The Best Man Holiday
Not content to merely rest on a single tear-jerking, hanky-wringing story of sentimental reconciliation and Christmas miracles, Malcolm D. Lee's The Best Man Holiday – an unexpected follow-up to 1999's The Best Man – contains within its unabashedly bloated 125-minute runtime at least four or five movies' worth of romantic conflict, sexual misunderstandings, harmless conniving, friendly sniping, scandalous past lives coming to light, a case of movie cancer, and, what the heck, an in-car emergency birth scene. Oh yes, and there's also a championship football game that must be won! And all set inside the walls of one of the most posh, blandly shopping-catalogue-ready mansions this side of, well, an actual catalogue. The Best Man Holiday won't just tug at your heartstrings, so much as yank with a mighty furor.
To its credit, The Best Man Holiday is far more finessed and subtle than some of its blunter neo-blaxploitation contemporaries. There are extended portions, for instance, of casual friendly banter between the film's ultra-handsome quartet of male leads, and between the equally sparkling four female leads, that actually feel light and jaunty and natural. It's rare that a movie will contain a conversation that has nothing to do with the central plot, and just breathe for a moment while the characters stop to chat. I love seeing actors trading in-jokes and stories, making the audience believe that they have a past beyond having met on the set that morning. Even bad movies can do this right; see: Dreamcatcher.
This is not to say that The Best Man Holiday is a stalwart new guard of the realist form. Indeed, The Best Man Holiday feels like a bloated sloppy cousin of Peter's Friends, but with twice the handsome, three times the gracelessness, and four times the incident. It's high melodrama with an ever-so-shabby sheen.
To catch you up, since few people actually remember details from The Best Man: Harper and Robin (Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan) are married and pregnant, and he has been having trouble supporting the family-to-be with his writing. Jordan (Nia Long) has begun a will-she-or-won't-she relationship with a handsome white man (Eddie Cibiran, referred to as “The Vanilla from Manila”). Lance (Morris Chestnut) is an ultra-rich football player who dotes on his all-too-perfect and all-to-humble wife Mia (Monica Calhoun). Terrence Howard plays the randy best friend. Julian (Harold Parrineau) is trying to raise money for a charity-run school of some sort, while also coming to terms with the sexual past of his wife Candace (Regina Hall), previously a stripper. Also Melissa De Souza, as the sassy one. One of these characters has movie cancer, although I will not reveal which one.
So many characters, so many plotlines! I often admire a go-for-broke attitude from filmmakers who tend to include any and every oddball and over-the-top idea they had while making a movie, but The Best Man Holiday feels overstuffed and top-heavy. It goes on thick and refuses to dry. It thrives on cliché. Objectively, the film is pretty rotten, as it's obvious and clumsy, despite the natural scenes of playful banter.
By the film's multiple climaxes (Death! Birth! Prayer! Christmas miracles! Reconciliation! Football!) you'll either be pounded into your seat by fists of treacle… or you may find yourself giving in. I admit, the film did get me a bit. As with all movies this corny, there is a disarming sweetness to its earnestness. It's not great, but when you're looking for a Hollywood Christmas weepie to share with the family – and there is most certainly a place for such films in this world – then The Best Man Holiday will fit the bill.
Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel, and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. You can read his weekly articles Trolling, Free Film School and The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.