News Column

"Best Man" comedy doesn't quite make it uptown

November 16, 2013


Nov. 16--Marketed as a comedy, the sequel to 1999's "The Best Man" ends with a funeral and a football game.

Along the way "The Best Man Holiday" features prayer, raucous R-rated dialogue, bedroom scenes, one wife who is a former prostitute, another who is a near saint, a catfight between two women, a slap fight among the male characters, one character dying of cancer and children singing "O Holy Night."

To say that the film is all over the place is an understatement.

While audiences may be perplexed from scene to scene as to whether to laugh, cry or recoil in befuddlement, the film has one connecting fiber: lots of sophisticated dialogue about being rich or becoming rich.

One character can't understand the need to raise $2 million. Another is traumatized by his need to write a best-selling book. The characters depend greatly on their iPads, cellphones and other gadgets as they sit poolside and sip champagne.

Tweeting and texting have replaced personal communication in their lives, but, in the spirit of a Christmas movie, there is hope they will truly connect.

While the uneven quality of Malcolm D. Lee's direction is often baffling, one can appreciate the non-street ambiance because, after all, there are more than enough gutter-level movies on the market. Still, "The Best Man Holiday," which has the distinction of being the year's first holiday movie, is never sure where it is going. Its resorting to holiday cheer and togetherness in the final reels is both too sudden and too unlikely.

It has been almost 15 years since the original surprise hit, yet this sequel devotes no time to providing background on the characters. Still, those who didn't see the original, or have forgotten it, will have no trouble identifying the stereotypes here. Refreshingly, this is a look at upscale African Americans who are too often ignored in films.

But the movie's attempt to preach melodrama to go along with its scattered laughs is more grating than spiritual.

Set during a reconciliation of estranged friends at the mansion of a football superstar, it is "The Big Chill" gone haywire. The opportunity for a soundtrack album is missed, although we do get a chance, for the first time this season, to hear Nat King Cole sing about chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Stopping the movie, though, for the four male leads to do a version of "Can You Stand the Rain," the 1988 pop song by New Edition, makes little sense -- particularly since none of them are singers. This comes across as mere filler for a movie that is already too long -- running almost two and a half hours.

Still, the cast is fine. The standout is the luminous honesty of Monica Calhoun as a woman who fears losing her children and her life. Morris Chestnut looks like he could play football -- even though turning this into a sports movie near the end is another jarring switcheroo. Taye Diggs plays a has-been writer who was fired from his teaching job at New York University.

Terrence Howard provides the main comic relief, reminding us that the career of this one-time Oscar nominee ("Hustle & Flow") should have gone further than it has. Here, he plays a still-single womanizer.

With guys who talk mostly about sexual conquests and female anatomy, the film lays itself open to charges of sexism. Cutting from dirty-talking women to dirty-talking men mixes things up. But when we add serious prayer and other references to God, the shift is jarring.

"The Best Man Holiday" is a refreshing change from the lowlife comedies of Tyler Perry -- soon to be represented by "A Madea Christmas." While we welcome the effort to go upscale, this movie is more a grab bag of melodrama and comedy than a neatly packed Christmas stocking.

Mal Vincent, 757-446-2347,


Movie Details

"The Best Man Holiday"

Cast Monica Calhoun, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Melissa De Sousa, Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Harold Perrineau, Regina Hall

Director and writer Malcolm D. Lee

MPAA rating R (language, sexuality)

Mal's rating


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