The year 1999 was a big one for American cinema. It gave us many notable films such as Fight Club, American Beauty, The Matrix, American Pie, The Green Mile, Notting Hill, Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace, Magnolia, 10 Things I Hate About You, Girl, Interrupted, Cruel Intentions, The Sixth Sense and the list goes on. Of course, not all of these films are considered classics today, but many remain in high esteem by audiences. One gem from that year is The Best Man. Though it may not be as well remembered as others from 1999, it really should be. It’s a charming, clever and enthusiastic comedy about a group of former college friends who reunite for a lavish wedding.
Cut to 2013 and we have before us the film’s sequel titled The Best Man Holiday. Upon first hearing of the producers’ plans to make the film, I must admit my first reaction was: Why in the hell would they want to make that?! It was not because I didn’t care to see the characters once more, it was merely that the original film carried itself so well and told its story succinctly. The movie does not exactly leave you yearning for a sequel as its credits roll. It’s very satisfying entertainment that does not require an epilogue.
The Best Man Holiday picks up fourteen years after the events of the first film. Harper Stewart is a once successful author who has hit a rough patch in his career. He is married to the beautiful Robin(Sanaa Lathan), a successful chef. Jordan Armstrong (Nia Long), Harper’s good friend, is a powerful TV executive. Julian Murch (Harold Perrineau) is now married to Candance “Candy”(Regina Hall), the stripper from the first film. The couple runs a school for at-risk children, one that is working toward a major donation. Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), Julian’s former girlfriend, is now a cast member on one of the “Real Housewives” reality shows and Quentin Spivey (Terrence Howard) holds some sort of profession that allows him to travel a lot. When Mia Sullivan (Monica Calhoun), wife of wealthy NFL player Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut), invites every one of them to the family’s mansion for the holidays, a lot laughs, tears, and screams ensue.
That the producers were able to get every last main cast member back for another round is impressive. That’s part of the film’s big strength. It's also amazing how little many of the cast members seem to have aged since part one. The chemistry the cast shared in the original is apparent here too. They feel like actual old friends reuniting in the same setting after years of being apart, which is largely true for the actors themselves as well. The performances are charismatic and sharp all around. Terrence Howard is the main comic relief. His character Quentin nicely offsets the film’s almost dominating somber tone. Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs, who also did 2002’s Brown Sugar together, make for a very believable couple with a long history, once again.
Really, though, The Best Man Holiday, is not at all necessary. The script does feel somewhat thrown together, resulting in awkward pacing and perplexing editing decisions, no doubt an effect of the screenplay’s holes or inconsistencies or both. There are also instances when things get a bit immature, where the characters’ yelling erupts to the point of being obnoxious and unintelligible. One scene in a car even has two male characters goofily fighting each other, yelling out Pokémon references as they do. Plus, the true reason for the characters’ reunion is extremely depressing, completely opposite of the first movie’s tone. The final act is filled with more crying than a Barbara Walters Special.
Yet, the entire returning cast, ultimately and magically, sells it all. Their chemistry and obvious care for one another both onscreen and off, comes through and makes The Best Man Holiday a lovely compliment to its predecessor. The film even leaves circumstances wide open for a third outing. But, honestly, spending a couple more, fresh hours with these characters could never be a terrible thing. Hopefully the filmmakers don’t make that statement false.