The Best Man Holiday: Yet another sequel is not equal

by Mark Burger

Whatever one thought of The Best Man (1999), it did tell a self-contained story. Referred to in some quarters as “The Black Chill,” in that it showcased a bevy of talented young African- American performers as reunited college chums, the film was a sleeper hit (particularly on home-video) and provided the intended career boost for its cast and first-time writer/director, Malcolm D. Lee.

Now, almost 15 years later, comes The Best Man Holiday, an unnecessary follow-up that overstays its welcome and tips the first film’s balance from humor to maudlin melodrama in heavy, hoary fashion.

As the title indicates, this is a holidaythemed outing, with the characters again reunited, this time at the palatial New Jersey estate of football superstar Lance (Morris Chestnut) and Mia (Monica Calhoun), whose nuptials provided the basis for the first film. The rest of the gang’s back, too: Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Sanaa Lathan, Regina Hall and Melissa De Sousa.

There are some funny and perceptive moments, but also a lot of hokey, soapopera ones. The first film understandably culminated in a wedding, this one culminates in a death, a birth, and a big football game (not necessarily in that order). Too often, the story revisits the same grudges and recriminations from before. It’s almost as if these characters haven’t seen, or been in contact with, each other since the events of the first film.

The rest of the time, Lee manufactures flimsy new conflicts that hardly seem worth the trouble. A constant refrain throughout the film is “It’s not what it looks like” — even when it doesn’t look like much of anything at all.

It’s nice to revisit the actors, all very talented and each bringing something extra to the party. Chestnut and Diggs hardly appear to have aged in the intervening years, while Howard and especially Perrineau get to showcase their comedic chops. Some of the characters have kids, who are sweet and cute but like the ornate holiday decorations, merely window-dressing.

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