College pals reunite to spend Christmas together — and rehash old feuds — in The Best Man Holiday, a sequel to the 1999 film The Best Man.
For those, like me, who never saw the first movie, the sequel quickly catches you up on who everybody was and is now. Harper (Taye Diggs), the author on the brink of great fame in the first movie, is now an author in search of a comeback. His wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) is nearing the end of her pregnancy with their first child — though, we quickly learn, a history of miscarriages has Harper on edge. With personal uncertainty and professional troubles — his agent can’t sell his new book and he’s just been let go from a teaching job — Harper is trying to hide his money woes from Robyn and from his old friends.
And particularly from Lance (Morris Chestnut), the onetime best friend for whom he was a best man in the first movie. Lance, a successful football player nearing the end of his career, still hasn’t forgiven Harper for his long-ago affair with Mia (Monica Calhoun), the woman who eventually became Lance’s wife. Though their relationship is uneasy, Harper and Robyn decide to spend the holidays at Lance and Mia’s house with more college friends.
There’s Quentin (Terrence Howard), Mia’s brother who is now a wealthy consultant who has yet to find true love. There’s Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), a diva whose found fame on a Real Housewives series. There’s Julian (Harold Perrineau), head of a school he founded with his wife Candace (Regina Hall). Now an admissions official and mother of two girls, Candace and Julian met when she was still a stripper. And then there’s Jordan (Nia Long), Harper’s former crush. She has a new boyfriend, Brian (Eddie Cibrian), but isn’t sure she really wants a commitment.
In addition to Lance and Harper’s old feud, other secrets serve as stocking stuffers for this holiday. Harper is mulling over a suggestion that he ask Lance to let him write his biography — and idea Robyn’s not certain about but that Jordan supports. Jordan is trying to decide exactly how she feels about Brian. Julian has just found a shocking YouTube video of Candace that is causing trouble with his big money donors. And something is not right at Lance and Mia’s perfect house.
The Best Man Holiday takes a sharp turn into melodrama land somewhere in the middle of the movie. But I found myself forgiving this because of some of the neat things it does along the way. There are little moments that address what happens when some members of a group of old friends are more financially successful than others, and that touch on the way old friends (and the way we used to be around them) do and do not mesh with our lives now. There’s a moment where a man and woman who once slept together are talking about the recent developments in another friend’s life. The woman flirts a bit with the man, looks for him to flatter and console her. But he’s adamant — I’m not there for you like that now, he says, and walks away. In movies like this, there’s often this idea that people harbor long-simmering romantic feelings toward old boyfriends or girlfriends. I like the way this movie sort of pooh-poohs this movie tendency toward the “one love ever” theory and let the guy in the scene maturely point out that he’s married, which isn’t just another state of puppy love. Maturity isn’t a thing you see in a movie and it’s refreshing to see in between moments of more slapsticky comedy and broad melodrama here.
I suspect that for people who loved the first movie, this movie will resonate more. For me, it was a pleasant if not particularly outstanding relationship dramady. C+
Rated R for language, sexual content and brief nudity. Written and directed by Malcolm D. Lee, The Best Man Holiday is two hours and three minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.