If it isn’t broke, then don’t try fixing it. We’ve all heard this saying before, and with 14 years in between Best Man Holiday and its predecessor Best Man, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the filmmakers went with a different approach this second time around to try to keep pace with the changes of the cinematic landscape since the late 90’s. Let’s just be glad that they didn’t…for the most part.
Everything that worked in the first film, works in this film as well. Although 14 years has passed, it doesn’t really seem like it. We are able to pick up right where the last film left off without a hitch.
The Best Man Holiday reunites the characters that top-lined The Best Man, a 1999 romantic comedy, which became a launching pad for several of its gifted young stars and part of an amazing wave of African American rom-coms that included Love & Basketball, Love Jones, Soul Food, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, with Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, and Taye Diggs as childhood friends prepping for football star Lance’s (Chestnut) nuptials. In case you aren’t quite familiar with the first film, the filmmakers do a wonderful job of jogging our memories by utilizing the opening credits to replay key moments from the original film.
Fast forward to current time and Lance is now looking towards retirement, while Harper (Diggs) recently got fired from his professorship at NYU and his latest manuscript won’t get the greenlight from his publisher. His career is at a standstill. Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Harper’s wife, is eight months pregnant, giving Harper reason to keep her in the dark about his troubles. The possibility of penning Lance’s lucrative memoir offers financial and professional salvation, but at the expense of possibly straining his already strained relationship with Lance further.
When the gang gathers at Lance’s mansion for a days-long Christmas party, some long-standing tensions re-emerge, culminating in at least one epic cat fight, a stunning, tragic turn and a dance number from the guys set to vintage New Edition.
The first thing that you notice is how the stars off the film aged remarkably well. The second is that you notice how The Best Man Holiday has lost none of its often melodramatic undertones and luckily for us, when things get too sappy, Howard can be depended on for crude one-liners that will cheer you up.
The Best Man Holiday also made it a point to show us that it has clearly caught up with the times, with one plot point revolving around social media foul ups, off-handedly invoking everyone from Barack Obama to Melissa Harris-Perry, Olivia Pope and Robin Thicke.
Unfortunately one thing clearly stands out and it pains for me to even say this but I believe it’s true, and that is in general when people think of “Black Movies” or “Black Cinema” in today’s society their minds immediately head in one of two directions; A Tyler Perry film or a film in which racism plays a key plot role or device.
We rarely see African-Americans living professional lifestyles or even everyday regular lifestyles. This is why, at least to me, The Best Man still holds up to this day some 14 years later. They weren’t stereotypical African-American characters. I felt that the first film was completely original with its twists and all.
The relationships among the cast were very strong and it appeared in the dynamics of their friendships. Unfortunately, a lot of that is lost in this sequel that, although appropriate for the time, somehow simultaneously seems to come a few years too late.
It is however great to see the same ensemble cast return 14 years later when many films fail to do so even a year or two later. But in having grown apart in the past 14 years the script does a minimal job of establishing that the characters are now distant of one another. Where as in The Best Man the relationships felt strong and genuine in this film it should seem much easier to convey that the characters are distant; and yet the film fails at doing this.
Perhaps the film could have overcome this with a more concise plot. But instead the film focuses on several, incredibly predictable, plot points to draw you in. What occurs is a sense of confusion about why you are seeing what you are seeing. One second you find yourself cheering for a friendship, or a certain character, and the next that story disappears for 15 minutes only to reemerge. Unfortunately, to bring these stories together the writers rely on two easily foreseeable plot devices which I will not spoil for you but you will figure them out within 20 minutes of viewing.
That said, despite these obvious flaws I found myself enjoying this film. I ran the gambit of emotions. I laughed often, even if at times it was from very juvenile sex or race jokes, and I bordered on tears at points. Terrence Howard’s “Q” steals the show again. It was very good to see a film that, although nowhere near the quality of it’s predecessor, still portrays African-American professionals, and now families, in a light that isn’t overly stereotypical.