Movie Review: 'Best Man Holiday' is fun despite plot flaws

For the News-DemocratNovember 14, 2013 

What It's About

Fourteen years after the hit comedy-drama "The Best Man" put careers on the map and sparked interest in similar films, the sequel tackles a heap of grown-up problems in a glitzy holiday setting. "The Best Man Holiday" is an overstuffed corny, sappy and slick crowd-pleaser that will have you laughing and crying, so only a Grinch would point out its hokey, contrived plot.

The same group of upscale characters who gathered for the wedding of pro football player Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut) and his college sweetheart Mia (Monica Calhoun) in 1999, return to the couple's palatial estate in New Jersey over a long Christmas weekend. Everything is greeting-card perfect, but underneath the Martha Stewart Holiday Special trappings are resentments, regrets, secrets and romantic issues.

Major life crises collide, with humor and heartbreak. It is a lot to absorb, but the audience's enjoyment seeing this inner circle reunite trumped the plot flaws.

Performances

The charming cast is solid, and clearly conveys an abundance of goodwill among the group. This is the kind of movie in which the storyline is incidental to the actors having a good time.

Terrence Howard ("Hustle and Flow") was the breakout star in the original, as swinging bachelor Quentin. He went on to prestige pictures and an Oscar nomination. Here, he has nothing to prove and has a blast as a fun-loving guy who seems to get the funniest lines. He steals the show.

A credible Taye Diggs ("Rent") has the main role, a struggling writer estranged from his BFF Lance and about to have a baby with his wife Robyn. If he could get Lance's permission to write a biography, he could be back on his feet.

The mighty fine Chestnut has a strong turn as the top-of-his-game athlete who puts his family first. He's living the good life, but most of his friends are, too.

The ladies slip into traditional roles -- the perfect homemaker-hostess Mia (Monica Calhoun), the driven career achiever Jordan (Nia Long), the fiesty wife with a tawdry past Candy (Regina Hall), and the wild party girl Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) -- of course, she's on a "Housewives" reality show.

What Works

The good-natured humor and chemistry that the cast displays goes a long way in smoothing over the sudsy soap opera. Make sure you have tissues on hand.

What Doesn't Work

The sentimental vibe is warm, but then the story veers into maudlin, tragic territory, so the tone is all over the place. A subplot involving Jordan's relationship with a handsome white guy named Brian McDaniels (Eddie Cibrian) feels forced.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Malcolm D. Lee

Starring: Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Monica Calhoun, Eddie Cibrian

Length: 2:02

Rated: R for language, sexual content and brief nudity

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