Morris Chestnut

The Perfect Guy

I like to discuss movies critically, but I consider myself a movie fan more than I consider myself a movie critic. All movies aren’t Oscar contenders, and that’s ok. That being said, I’ve seen so many movies that I can’t help but notice when one doesn’t measure up. When I saw the trailer for The Perfect Guy, I thought it looked like it might be passably entertaining, but it seemed derivative even in that 30-second clip. I’m probably showing my age, but Fatal Attraction will forever be the standard bearer in this genre, because it was just as suspenseful as it was smart. The Perfect Guy was neither suspenseful nor smart, and the only reason why I wasn’t disappointed was because my expectations were low to begin with.

Leah Vaughn (Sanaa Lathan, The Best Man Holiday) is a beautiful, accomplished woman who seems to have it all. Her boyfriend Dave (Morris Chestnut, The Best Man Holiday) is every bit her equal, and they look like a great match. However, as most women in their thirties will attest, there comes a time when you’re ready to start a family, and any person or relationship that doesn’t advance that objective is a waste of time. When Dave reveals his uncertainty about future fatherhood, the pair agrees it’s best to part ways. Fresh out of a two-year relationship, it isn’t long before Leah crosses paths with a very handsome stranger, Carter Duncan (Michael Ealy, Think Like a Man Too).

Carter is everything a woman would want, which is sort of the problem. I’m all for positive vibes, but most things that seem too good to be true usually are. Carter is attentive, doting, romantic, and chivalrous. When he shows up to her workplace unexpectedly, Leah is flattered not frightened – even though she never told him where she worked. The couple moves at lightning speed, and she even introduces him to her parents, despite the fact it’s only been a few weeks. They seem like a match made in heaven until the short relationship implodes in a horrifying instant. While stopped at a gas station, a man approaches Leah while she waits in the car for Carter, who’s inside. He strikes up a conversation about Carter’s classic car, but before Leah can relay the stranger’s admiration Carter mercilessly attacks the man, savagely beating him in a jealous rage.

After this critical plot point, the movie devolved into a hackneyed exercise in predictability. There was little in the way of character development, as Carter had two extremes: angel and maniac, with no shades of gray. There should’ve been a slow build to his insanity, a subtle moment where Lathan’s character begins to second-guess the relationship. When Carter snaps, there’s no doubt that the relationship is over because his actions are so extreme with such little provocation. When Dave and Leah reconnect, it feels contrived, a function of necessity rather than realism. I like Lathan and Chestnut, but at what point are they going to stretch themselves artistically? This movie does not meaningfully add to their repertoire. Ealy typically features as the clichéd “nice” leading man, so I’ll give him credit for doing something different this time around, though the source material was lacking. The Perfect Guy didn’t need to be the perfect movie, but it was not big screen worthy. I know the movie has a built-in audience, and I’m sure they loved it. I certainly did not. Grade: D.

The Best Man Holiday

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.