On paper, there is little to nothing appealing about The Best Man Holiday. It’s a sequel to a movie from 14 years ago, directed by Malcolm Lee – responsible for the latest entry in the Scary Movie franchise, and has a string of melodramatic moments that would make even Canadian teenage dramas cringe. And yet, it is one of the most entertaining movies of 2013; albeit not always in the way it may have intended.
The story picks up 14 years after its predecessor leaves off; with the opening credits rushing to give the audience a quick rundown both of the main events of the previous film as well as what has been going on in the lives of the main cast in the intermediary.
The focal character is Harper, played by Taye Diggs. His latest novel was a complete flop, and now he is struggling to find a source for his next work. His publisher suggests a biography on his former friend Lance, played by Morris Chestnut; a retiring football player who is merely one game away from setting the NFL’s all-time rushing record. Realizing that, due to their tumultuous history, Lance would likely reject his request, he decides to attempt to proceed without his knowledge.
He and his pregnant wife Robyn, played by Sanaa Lathan, go to Lance’s house for Christmas as a part of a get-together for them and the rest of their friends from college. What ensues is over 120 minutes of hilarity and drama that is sure to elicit a significant emotional reaction from the audience.
The best thing this film has going for it is the cast. Even in what could be considered melodramatic or even ridiculous moments, the actors and actresses play the role to the best of their ability and is quite a sight to behold.
Stealing the film, however, is Terrence Howard, who plays the perpetually single and often stoned Quentin. Although primarily serving as the film’s cathartic comedy relief, he is also the “normal” character in the group; often grounding their emotional tirades and giving them a healthy dose of calming reality.
Although it is clear that all of these people are friends with a history, there are times and things said that would suggest that a friendship isn’t even possible anymore. Some of the lines of dialogue-most notably Julian making reference to his wife’s profitably promiscuous past whilst in the throes of passion-make a stronger case that there is true loathing and disdain among them more than the bonds of familiarity.
Often in dramas like this, the jokes serve just as filler so that the film isn’t two hours of pure, unmitigated, tear-jerking events; either completely falling flat or being clichéd so as to only elicit a chuckle. However, with The Best Man Holiday, the jokes are actually very funny. The set ups aren’t rushed, the pay-offs are often quick and well timed, and the follow ups are thorough.
On the other hand, however, the dramatic is so over-played that it is difficult to completely take it seriously. If that was the nature of the film, a “so bad it must be good” sort of drama, then it would have been the work of genius and easily best comedy of the year. However, the tone goes completely dark with little to no notice and makes the audience forget that this is, in fact, a Christmas film.
Although, with the number of subplots, it is difficult to discern where the film is going; however, no matter what direction it’s going, it goes full tilt. Whether it is pushing the envelope to get a laugh, a full blown fist fight in the foyer or a slow series of tracking shots in the middle of lovemaking, the audience is taken to the brink; sadly, however, it plunges right over the deep end into full blown hilarity.
The Best Man Holiday does what few films tend to do anymore; it takes chances. If a character is religious, they make no qualms about taking a knee and saying a prayer. When Robyn goes into labor, they show the water breaking. They make full use of the R-rating without ever truly becoming crass or unwatchable. Even though there is significant fodder for ridicule, it is one of the most entertaining films of the year. The laughs are big, the tears are real and the ending, while dragged out, is cathartic and conclusive. Two and a half stars out of four.
The Best Man Holiday opens November 15th. Watch the trailer here.