I’ve always enjoyed ensemble movies. They’re entertaining and usually characterized by good chemistry amongst the cast, as well as layered performances. Fourteen years ago viewers were introduced to a group of college friends who were reuniting for a wedding in The Best Man. Lance (Morris Chestnut, Kick-Ass 2) and Mia (Monica Calhoun, Love & Basketball) were college sweethearts tying the knot after a fulfilling but trying relationship that tested Lance’s fidelity. The titular best man was Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs, Between Us), best friend of Lance and good friend to the couple. In the days leading up to the wedding, friendships were tested, but love prevailed.
Fast-forward to the present day, and the friends have experienced a large measure of success. Jordan (Nia Long, Mooz-Lum) has become an even more powerful television producer, though she is still unmarried. Harper and Robin (Sanaa Lathan, Contagion) have married and both have enjoyed success as a best-selling author and chef, respectively. Julian (Harold Perrineau, Snitch) and Candace (Regina Hall, Think Like a Man) are married with children and have opened a charter school for children. Shelby (Melissa De Sousa, Miss Congeniality) is hilarious as one of those fame-hungry “Real Housewives” that the Bravo network has made famous, and Quentin (Terrence Howard, Prisoners) has also made his mark in the entertainment industry, irreverently charming as ever. Once again, Lance and Mia are requesting the honor of everyone’s presence. This time they are inviting everyone and their families for a holiday weekend of fun at their New York estate.
In a group of friends, you will find all sorts of emotional dynamics at play. Usually at least one person will have entertained a romantic or lustful thought about another friend. In the movie, Jordan and Harper have a history, and Harper and Mia have a history. There are residual emotions that have lain dormant over the years, including envy and guilt. Secrets abound, as everyone isn’t quite as successful as they appear to be. Harper’s last novel flopped, and he’s suffering from writer’s block. Julian’s school is in financial trouble, and Jordan seems like a commitment phobe destined for a life of solitude with her blackberry, despite having a handsome boyfriend (Eddie Cibrian, Good Deeds). Most significantly, Lance hasn’t truly forgiven Harper for old transgressions. He and Mia seem to be hiding something, even though by outward appearances they have it all. When the gang is reunited, old insecurities (and drama) resurface.
Although I’ve mentioned the original film, I don’t think it is a necessary prerequisite for viewing the sequel. Director Malcolm Lee masterfully referenced the original movie in the opening credits, neatly updating the audience on all that has transpired since 1999. Brief but pertinent flashbacks to The Best Man created the perfect opening scene, from both a functional and artistic perspective.
The performances were solid, with Taye Diggs turning in the most impressive effort, in my opinion. In the original movie, Terrence Howard stole the show and has subsequently had the most commercial and critical success, but here it was Diggs whose performance touched me most. The storyline called for some emotionally draining subject matter, and the movie takes a melodramatic turn in its third act. I liked the weightiness and relevance of the storyline, but it did get a little corny towards the end. I’m really only thinking of one scene in particular, but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think it detracted from the movie.
I hate to sound like a cliché, but I laughed and I cried. I was entertained throughout, and I thought Lee recaptured much of what made the first movie so enjoyable. The characters had distinct, relatable personalities that were clearly drawn and familiar. The cast enjoyed a chemistry with one another that made viewers feel like they were catching up with old friends themselves. While I don’t expect The Best Man Holiday to unseat Thor as the #1 movie in America, I know that most who saw it found it immensely entertaining. I was looking forward to this one, and I wasn’t disappointed one bit. Grade: B+
This article first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission.