When college friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited in the tender, yet funny romantic comedy, The Best Man Holiday.
When we last saw the “Notorious Nine,” they were recovering from a celebratory, yet sobering get together for the wedding of Mia (Monica Calhoun) and Lance (Morris Chestnut). As each of them settled into their adult years and went their separate ways, each enjoyed varying degrees of success and frustration navigating the game of life.
Harper (Taye Diggs) and his now wife, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) are furiously trying to have a baby as he is in the middle of writer’s slump and feeling desperate to overcome some financial difficulties without alerting his significant other. Also, now-married Murch (Harold Perrineau) and his wife, Candace (Regina Hall) are raising their two kids and running a thriving charter school but a major donor with strong morality concerns has issues with “Candy’s” past.
After briefly hooking up at the conclusion of the original film, Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) and Quentin (Terrance Howard) have gone their separate ways and used their big personalities to become very successful in business. Now a full-fledged drama queen on the Real Housewives of Westchester County, Shelby has a seven-figure net worth but is struggling as a single parent to provide a loving environment for her daughter. After giving up his dreams of being an artist, Quentin took over the family business and also became a global success working with the likes of Quincy Jones, Diddy and Magic Johnson.
The most ambitious member of the crew then and now is Jordan (Nia Long), who has climbed the ladder from producer at BET to an Emmy Award winning television executive with a rich handsome old-money, boyfriend, Brian (Eddie Cibrian), whom she still can’t commit to over her career. Now happily married and raising their four kids in high style, Lance and Mia are still the picture of marital bliss and stability. When she’s not running the family foundation and family, she is supporting her husband’s endeavors on the football field as he is on the verge of breaking a career rushing record for the New York Giants. But they are harboring a dark secret that threatens their family.
Writer/director Malcolm Lee had plenty of time to think about this story over the years and it shows, successfully walking a fine line between heavy dramatic moments and light comedy. The evolution of the characters seems natural as they (and the actors portraying them) have matured. Lee does a wonderful job in the sequel of balancing the gender inequality from the original. While The Best Man was decidedly, male-centric, the sequel gives everyone a chance to shine building on the situations and rivalries from the past and coping with the present challenges from issues unresolved.
While the majority of the action in both film flows through both Harper and Jordan, it is Mia that is the heart and emotional center of the franchise. Her actions in the original created a rift between two best friends, Harper and Lance that is so central to the story. Understanding her role, she gently nudges both men to get their collective houses in order because ultimately, they will need one another.
As an urban-Christmas film, The Best Man Holiday is equal to the current standard-bearer, This Christmas. Holiday does invoke the spirit of the season but feels like the occasion is secondary to the primary story of the friendships and camaraderie between the friends than just a celebration of the holiday.
One of the things that Lee does so well in the film is using Quentin’s character as a mirror that reveals each of the friends for who they really are. Spending much of the film as a rouge and rascal, Q is comfortable in his own skin and wants his friends to drop their pretensions and remember that no matter what challenges they face, they all love each other. Kudos also to De Sousa, whose energy and craziness matches Howard.
Lee excels as a relationship storyteller in films such as Soul Man, Roll Bounce, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins and Undercover Brother. But those films also show that he has a wonderful skill at finding what’s funny without degrading others and he displays that quality once again in this film.
To uber-critique The Best Man Holiday would be unfair to the audience and the legion of fans that revere these characters. Sure, there are scenes that are repetitive from the original and certain situations that feel glossed over that deserved stronger consideration but with so many characters, plotlines and on-screen activity that Lee juggles, successfully for the most part, he gets a pass. What he has created is a highly-entertaining, emotionally-charged, crowd-pleaser that will satisfy fans of the original and should also pick up some new converts, as well.
Lee has indicated that depending on the audience / studio reaction and cast participation, he may explore continuing the franchise. While, I’m sure that he could, I also remember the phrase, “always leave them wanting more.” Sometimes less is more and for fans eagerly awaiting a nostalgic trip down memory lane, Lee’s film is the gift that keeps on giving!