Thursday, March 13, 2014

Best Man Holiday

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. 
2013. Rated R, 123 minutes. 
Melissa De Sousa 
Monica Calhoun 

When last we saw our gang of friends, way back in 1999, things culminated in a beautiful wedding for Lance (Chestnut) and Mia (Calhoun). All these years later, they've all moved on to bigger and better things. We pick up the story with Lance and Mia inviting the whole crew over to their place for the week of Christmas. Everyone is on board, no problem, except Harper (Diggs). It turns out things between he and Lance haven't been so good in the intervening years. The events of The Best Man, seems to have irreparably damaged their friendship. Nonetheless, he agrees to go because he has an ulterior motive. His last few books have flopped. His next one may not see the light of day. He has also lost his teaching job at NYU, his wife Robin (Lathan) is pregnant with their first child, and the bills are piling up. At the urging of his agent, he plans on writing a biography on Lance, the football hero. One slight problem. He hasn't actually mentioned this to Lance. The playing out of this situation and a number of others ensues.

In case you were wondering, the entire cast does indeed reprise their roles from the original. Julian (Perrineau) really did marry Candy (Hall), the stripper. Though she no longer does that sort of thing, her past comes back to haunt them in a big way. Jordan (Long) is a media mogul of sorts, still incredibly driven and beautiful. I just had to mention the beautiful part. I mean, it is Nia Long, dammit. I digress. She is also still single, but dating Brian (Cibrian), the only newcomer and only Caucasian. Both of these matter for at least a few minutes. Quentin (Howard) is a successful ad man and still a mischevious button pusher. Finally, Shelby (De Sousa) is a reality TV star more concerned with building her brand than anything else. In true sequel fashion, each person plays a bigger, badder version of themselves. Their most memorable traits take center stage and never leave. In general, this works. The one issue is that leves the characters with a flatter feel to them.

Even if the players aren't as well-rounded as they once were, they are still a fun bunch to be around. They make us laugh on a fairly consistent basis as each member of the ensembl, usually two at a time, takes turns in the spotlight. When their turn is done, they fade into the background just enough to still be seen until they are either tasked to give counsel to one of the others, or take over the proceedings once more. It essentially becomes a game of hot potato with the cast quickly passing our attention our their circle.
All of that tossing us around is where the movie gets into a bit of trouble. Director Malcolm D. Lee might be a world class juggler. However, even the best have limits. At times, it feels as if he's reached his, but threw one more ball in the air anyway. To his credit, he ties the stoires together organically and in a manner that is never confusing. It can just feel as if the system is dangerously close to overloading. Thankfully, a cast which is more than game makes it all a joy to watch. They are uniformly excellent. Even so, Terrence Howard and Melissa De Sousa stand out as doing particularly nice work. They help maintain a sense of fun, even as things start to get heavy during the final act.

This last portion of Best Man Holiday is where it might lose some of you. Though what's going on with Mia is telegraphed practically from the moment people start arriving at her house, the movie still shifts hard into tear-jerker mode. It pulls mightily at our heartstrings. Judging by the crowd I watched with, including my wife and a cousin of hers, it's effective. If, like me, you're not prone to crying over movies, it can start to feel very manipulative. What was a fun, occasionally raunchy ensemble comedy devolves into a profit driver for Kleenex. I say this fully realizing that people who do cry over movies are much more inclined to love the films that move them to tears. Personally, I like it a good deal. I just don't love it.

No comments:

Post a Comment