The Best Man Holiday

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Starring: Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall, Harold Perrineau, and Eddie Cibrian

2013 has been touted as the year of the African American film renaissance.  I am not quite ready to go that far, but it has been an absolute delight to see so many films with African American actors and actresses in lead roles meet critical and/or commercial success.  This year, films like Fruitvale Station, 42, The Butler and 12 Years A Slave have found box office success.  Notably, the films not only star diverse casts, but were also directed by black directors (Ryan Coogler, Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen).  The Best Man Holiday follows suit.  Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and starring an illustrious cast of seasoned actors, the film is on track to exceed expectations and open with a box office haul in the $30 million dollar range.  Given that we have been in an era where the primary films starring African American actors in lead roles involved a cross-dressing Madea, this trend is long overdue.  (Those who suffered through the disastrous Madea’s Witness Protection certainly understand my sentiment). 

The original film, The Best Man, debuted in 1999 and followed a group of old college friends as they gathered for a wedding. The Best Man Holiday picks up with the characters 15 years after the wedding.  Author Harper (Taye Diggs) has married Robyn (Sanaa Lathan).  Harper initially found commercial success with his book Unfinished Business and became a professor at New York University.  However, he has unexpectedly hit hard times as his new book will not sell, and he has been laid off from NYU.  His wife Robyn is about to have a baby and Harper is scrambling to figure out a way to support her and the baby. His publisher suggests that he write an autobiography on his former best friend Lance (Morris Chestnut), a legendary NFL star on the verge of retirement.  Harper is reluctant to write a book about Lance as their relationship has been incredibly strained since Lance discovered that Harper betrayed him by sleeping with his wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) in college.

Desperate to provide for his family, Harper decides to attend Lance and Mia’s holiday Christmas gathering.  Mia and Lance have invited all of their old college friends to their home for Christmas week.  Julian (Harold Perrineau) and his wife Candace (Regina Hall) and their children attend.  However, her former life as a stripper has come back to haunt them. Strong and successful Jordan (Nia Long) is in attendance as well, with her new beau Brian (Eddie Cibrian).   Jordan is still struggling with commitment issues despite being involved with an equally successful, sexy, thoughtful man.  Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) has found success via multiple marriages and a starring role on “The Real Housewives of Westchester.”  And the relentless, brash playboy Quentin (Terrence Howard) is still Quentin.  As the friends gather for the holidays, they must deal with their personal drama, as well as their unresolved issues with one another.

Watching The Best Man Holiday made me feel like I was a part of a family reunion.  I adored the original movie so much and have watched it so many times on cable, that the characters feel like old friends.  There was something wonderfully comfortable and fun in seeing how the characters’ lives had evolved.  The Best Man Holiday was at times hilarious, raunchy, touching and real. I laughed; I cried; I laughed until I cried.  There was a great sense of camaraderie in the film that somehow transferred to everyone in my movie theater.  How can you not like a film that includes the cast singing New Edition’s “Can You Stand The Rain”? 

The cast is firing on all cylinders.  Terrence Howard delivers his vulgar, brutally honest wit and definitely steals almost every scene that he is in.  Melissa De Sousa brings a great deal of humor and ridiculousness as well.  Monica Calhoun gives a passionate and haunting performance that any mother can connect with. Moreover, I would be remiss if I did not note that Morris Chestnut is still sexy 14 years later.  I cannot say that there was a scene that matched the awesomeness that was Chestnut’s slow entrance into the bar in the original movie.  (I still remember the squeals in my movie theater).  However, Mr. Chestnut has definitely been hitting the gym.

As much as I enjoyed watching The Best Man Holiday, there were some missteps.  The original film was so fresh that the bar was set very high.  The Best Man Holiday, however, is fairly predictable so there are few plot twists that are not obvious from the outset of the movie.  Moreover, at just over two hours, the film drags in some places.  Some of the dialogue could have been a little more inspired beyond the continuous use of the “f” bomb.  And towards the end of the film, one character miraculously morphs into a doctor in a scene that is supposed to be heartfelt, but comes off as a bit corny.

With all of that being said, The Best Man Holiday earns a strong 0.06% rating. Sit back and enjoy the film with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.  Based on the ending, there appears to be room for a trilogy, and I would love to see these characters again.