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Fifteen years later, in both real and “reel” time, the characters of director-writer Malcolm D. Lee’s 1999 independent film “Best Man” (produced by his cousin Spike) meet up to spend Christmas together in the Universal film “Best Man Holiday.”
They are just as good-looking, and all have met with successes since the events of “Best Man,” but despite this, each of the formerly tight group of college friends has got some serious issues, as a group, as couples and as individuals.
In fact, they all get together only because Mia (Monica Calhoun), married happily all this time to superstar pro football player Lance (Morris Chestnut), have urged them all, with significant others and children, to come this year to spend the holidays with them and their four children at their huge, beautifully appointed mansion estate.
Writer Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs), whose bestselling autobiographical novel “Unfinished Business” fifteen years before caused some of the mayhem in “Best Man,” was Lance’s best friend – once – and the difficulties between them – that now long-ago affair with Mia – would surely have prevented him from accepting the invitation. But his agent, unable to sell Harper’s new novel anywhere, tells him he could definitely sell a biography of his friend Lance, who, at the apparent height of his powers on the playing field, has announced his imminent retirement. Further, Harper’s wife Robin (Sanaa Lathan), at long last successfully carrying their first child to term, expresses a desire to go. Since his books aren’t selling, and New York University has just let him go due to budget cuts – a fact he neglects to tell Robin – he reluctantly finds himself agreeing to go and planning out – maybe – a book on Lance, if Lance will agree.
Nia Long reprises Jordan Armstrong; Harold Perrineau is again Julian Murch and Regina Hall his wife, former stripper Candace; Terrence Howard (a Chicagoan, who was nominated for several awards for his performance in “Best Man”) is Quentin Spivey – “the Q” – and Melissa De Sousa is Mia’s sorority sister, loud, obnoxious (if hot) Shelby. Everyone who has kids brings them to the Sullivans’ – even Shelby has a little girl from one of her numerous, ended, marriages; Jordan brings her iconically handsome white boyfriend for part of the festivities – he obviously loves her, but she still has commitment issues.
Stanley Clarke composed for this film, as he did for “The Best Man.” The composer and former jazz/jazz-fusion bassist with Return to Forever in the ’70s is perfectly on target as usual; the soundtrack also includes Christmas songs by Mary J. Blige, R. Kelly, Ne-Yo, Jordin Sparks
“The Best Man Holiday” is exhausting – and fun. It is a sentimental, heartwarming, soap-opera-esque epic of traditional storytelling about lives and loves and past mistakes, fears for the future, birth, death, endings and renewal. The viewer’s heartstrings are pulled out of shape and then snapped back with a hilarious (if sometimes crude) one-liner, only to be tugged again.
It is not a great movie, but it is good holiday fare: a feel-good movie about people who, at bottom, are good-hearted and care deeply for each other. The audience laughed together, cried, clapped, moaned in sympathetic embarrassment, and otherwise sat raptly attentive for the whole 123 minutes. Sighs of contentment could be heard around the theater as the credits rolled.