The Best Man Holiday is a sequel to 1999's The Best Man. Writer/director Malcolm D. Lee reunites his nine African American characters 15 years later. All are in various stages of crisis. Some have more than one. Many are so contrived that they turn Lee's sometimes most excellent film into a soap opera. The result is a schizophrenic story where big chunks of the movie do not work. Fortunately, even bigger chunks do.
The characters come together for a Christmas celebration. Harper is the main character. Years ago, he wrote a popular book that caused strife within the group of friends. Some in the group are ex-girlfriends or boyfriends. That causes jealousy and strife. Years ago, Harper also slept with best friend Lance's then-girlfriend Mia. Lance and Mia are happily married. Harper is now married to Robin and expecting a child, but his writing career is floundering. Lance is a pro football player, and to jump-start his writing career, Harper is hoping to get Lance to say yes to writing his biography. But they're barely speaking to each other.
And on it goes.
Though Lee cleverly reintroduces the characters in the film's opening credits, and updates their lives, to understand the interactions of the characters in the sequel, you have to remember big parts of the original film. A lot of insider sniping goes on and it takes a ton of concentration to remember who did what to who 15 years ago and why it matters in the sequel.
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Adding to the soap opera flavor is wondering why these people hang on to such petty things for 15 years.
Reprising the roles of Harper, Lance, Mia, Robin, Candace, Jordan, Shelby, Quentin and Julian are, in order, Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall, Nia Long, Melissa De Sousa, Terrence Howard and Harold Perrineau.
Ensemble acting doesn't get any better. Lee's strength is the creation of characters that are real people interacting as real people do. At times, his dialogue is fabulous and funny, and other times, it is dark and dramatic. The actors chew into the film's verbiage with gusto.
The story is set at Christmas, and there is a wonderful section about faith and belief in God and the gift of the Savior of the world. It anchors the film's final parts. Though much of Lee's film is a train wreck, the excellent characters, and most excellent dialogue make this the season's first, and hopefully not only, good holiday movie.
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Stars: Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall, Nia Long, Melissa De Sousa, Terrance Howard and Harold Perrineau
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated R for language, brief nudity and mature themes. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.