The gang is back! All the characters you loved from the 1999 hit The Best Man are up to their old shenanigans – only as mature adults. Lance (played by Morris Chestnut) and Mia (Monica Calhoun) are happily married with their four kids and Lance has an awesome football career playing for the New York Giants. Julian (Harold Perrineau) and Candace “Candy” (Regina Hall) are running a charter school called King’s County Academy.
Harper (Taye Diggs) and Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) are expecting their first child after a few failed attempts. Jordan (Nia Long) is dating a, white businessman named Brian (Black entertainment’s token white guy Eddie Cibrian), but unwilling to give him her heart. Quentin (Terrence Howard) is still playboy Quentin but with his own brand management company. And, Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) is now a real housewife of Rochester and an iffy mother.
“It was time,” writer/director Malcolm D. Lee said about making this sequel during an interview at the 2013 American Black Film Festival (ABFF). “I always knew that I wanted [the sequel] to be different from the first, but I needed to make sure the timing was right.”
All seems on point for the maturing gang, with a few minor issues. Like, Harper’s latest book being such a flop that he can’t pay anyone to read it and he’s lost his prestigious job as a professor at New York University. Lance is still very angry that Harper slept with Mia, and then wrote about it. Mia is hiding a big secret of her own. And, Candy’s past is coming back to haunt her and Julian.
All real-life scenarios and events that happen when people grow, mature, and keep living life. So, in essence, Lee is on target with his story structure. And, Lee’s need to bring a faith-based element to the story is noble. However, there are some things in this R-rated film that would give any good Christian pause.
The last time a deservedly R-rated film tried to give a faith-based message amongst scenes of nudity and endless profanity that this writer can remember, was Belly. The film’s target audience is urban. With The Best Man Holiday, the target audience is most assuredly those that loved the film in 1999 and those that are curious about why the film is so beloved by many in the black community.
That said, most R-rated and faith-based films – which are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum – usually pick a side. They’re either R rated with violence, sex and/or nudity. Or, they are uplifting stories that the whole family can watch. The gray area that The Best Man Holiday attempts to thrive in can get dicey when it comes to choosing whether to watch the film in the theaters with the kids or rent the DVD for date night. Needless to say, it is still a film geared toward the grown and sexy set, with a bonus of strong female characters.
“I try to represent you [black women],” Long said to the audience during a panel discussion for the 2013 ABFF. “We are expected to be so strong as black women. We are strong, but we are women, too.”
“Malcolm writes great women because of his amazing wife,” Lathan said.
A hallmark of Lee’s writing is that he creates strong, independent heroines who serve as major characters, instead of being relegated to the “girlfriend” role.
Given that the cast is so large, it’s hard to pick out each individual performance to give a rating. Overall, the actors settle into their roles like old comfy slippers. Diggs’ Harper is, however, the meat of this submarine sandwich of a film. With the bulk of the scenes being his own, Diggs draws us in with Harper and makes us root for him again, even if he delves into questionable creative practices.
“I’m pretty sure about what I want when I write. But, I like for [the actors in the cast] to give their input,” Lee said about working with this particular group of actors. “What I like most is what they bring to their individual performances. It is really a great collaborative effort.”
Indeed. Despite misgivings with the raunchy, faith-based mash-up that doesn’t really gel with the tone of the film, The Best Man Holiday is worth the watch. If for nothing else, than to get into the holiday spirit with the lush, snow covered landscape and welcoming fireplace. Not to mention, Best Man Holiday is an ode to its predecessor and an enjoyable romp with beloved characters.