"The Best Man Holiday" has the potential to become a staple of Christmastime movie watching in the 'hood. Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee reunites the cast from his 1999 film, "The Best Man," extending their stories and filling in blanks left in the original. While not as pointed as its 1999 predecessor, this sequel has a richer emotional palette. Lee raises the stakes on characters that fans have cradled to their bosoms, adding a surprising amount of tragedy. He overdoes it, but "The Best Man Holiday" could still teach Tyler Perry lessons on how to move from overwhelming sadness to broad comedy.
"The Best Man" was a sharp deconstruction of the male ego disguised as a catty, funny character-driven comedy. The plot centered on Harper (Taye Diggs), a writer whose upcoming roman-a-clef "Unfinished Business" features thinly veiled versions of his friends. One of those friends, Jordan (Nia Long) gets an advanced copy and passes it on to everyone Harper wrote about, including Lance (Morris Chestnut). Lance is the last person Harper would want to read "Unfinished Business," as it details the one-night stand between Harper and Lance's fiancée, Mia (Monica Calhoun). On hand to watch the ensuing carnage are Harper's girlfriend Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), blabbermouth Julian (Harold Perrineau) and his mean, snooty, controlling girlfriend Shelby (Melissa De Sousa).
Rounding out the group is Quentin Spivey, a character whom I had such a huge man-crush on that I wrote an unabashedly gushing piece about him in 2011. Though his screen time was limited, Spivey took over "The Best Man" whenever he was onscreen by serving as the film's id. It's a starmaking turn that somehow failed to make a star of Spivey's portrayer, Terrence Howard, a charismatic actor who finally broke through six years later in "Hustle and Flow."
The opening credits catch us up on what has happened in the years since we last saw everyone. While Quentin is still the film's randy id, he has finally gone into the family business he had previously evaded. Lance and Mia are still married, and Lance's New York Giants career has put him 176 yards from breaking the rushing record. Julian is now
shacking up with *married to Candace (Regina Hall), the stripper who worked the bachelor party in the first film. Julian's ex, Shelby, is perfectly cast on a familiar reality show. Jordan is a hotshot on MSNBC. And Harper is still writing, though his latest book isn't a gossipy airport novel success on the order of "Unfinished Business."