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In hindsight I'd say I should have watched The Best Man before watching its direct sequel, The Best Man Holiday. Director Malcolm D. Lee waited nearly fifteen years to shoot a follow-up to his 1999 hit, and the entire principal cast, including Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Monica Calhoun, Harold Perrineau, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard and Melissa De Sousa, returns to reprise their roles. Mia (Calhoun) gathers the old gang for Christmas at the mansion she shares with husband and NFL star Lance (Chestnut). Old rivalries ignite and tensions boil over when the eclectic group reunites under one roof. Those looking for melodrama will get it in heavy doses in The Best Man Holiday, which presents all sorts of character and situational drama. From terminal illness and infidelity to financial hardship and cat-fighting, no stone is left unturned in this spectacularly unsubtle film. That's not necessarily a criticism, as one knows exactly what is coming in this ensemble piece. I missed out on the backstory for these characters, which tempered my enjoyment of the film, and The Best Man Holiday wastes little time bringing uninitiated viewers up to speed. The cast has impressive chemistry, and I truly believed these people were longtime friends, which is somewhat of a rarity in modern cinema.
Among the Christmas guests are writer Harper (Diggs) and his very pregnant wife, Robin (Lathan); Julian (Perrineau) and wife Candace (Hall), an ex-stripper; career-driven Jordan (Long); playboy Quentin (Howard); and bad girl Shelby (De Sousa). I learned that the principal drama in The Best Man involved Harper sleeping with Mia, something that effectively chilled his friendship with Lance. Lance and Mia ended up getting married, but he never fully forgave Harper. The funds have dried up from Harper's successful book, "Unfinished Business," and he hides his financial woes from Robin. His publisher encourages him to write a biography on the soon-to-retire Lance, and Harper begins the weekend subtly probing Lance for material without telling Lance his true intentions. Julian is upset by a video purporting to show Candace trading sex for money, and his frustration is multiplied when ex-lover Shelby sees the clip. To say that Shelby and Candace do not like one other is an understatement, and their rivalry at one point devolves into a name-calling, hair-pulling physical fight.
There isn't much of a forward-moving plot to be found in The Best Man Holiday, but the film is more about the characters and interpersonal relationships than narrative. The film is frequently funny thanks to the comedic timing of the cast, which works from Lee's own script. Most of the comedy comes from Shelby and Candace's back biting and Howard's drunken antics. There is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of melodrama here, some of which borders on parody. The film has a tendency to switch from cloying sentimentality to gross-out comedy with no buffering transition, which is a bit off-putting at times. By the time a major character is revealed to be dealing with a severe illness, I decided to go with The Best Man Holiday's roller coaster drama and comedy. As ridiculous as the film gets, I cannot say I was not entertained.
A glance at a few terribly racist threads on the Internet Movie Database's forums reveals that some ignorant viewers label the film a "black comedy." That is both shortsighted and untrue. Although the cast is predominately African American, the characters in The Best Man Holiday deal with universal themes of evolving friendships, heartache, forgiveness and loss. The only stratifying characteristic here is wealth, as Mia and Lance lead the pack in upper-class lifestyle. I suspect fans of The Best Man will find The Best Man Holiday a very satisfying sequel. I wish I had seen The Best Man before viewing this film, as I would have appreciated the relationships more. Subtle it is not, but The Best Man Holiday is an entertaining ensemble drama with some genuine comedy and emotion mixed throughout.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly good on this new release. Detail, clarity and depth are excellent throughout, and skin tones are accurate. Colors are nicely saturated, and the image is full of warm Christmas reds and yellows. Black levels are good, as is shadow detail, and I noticed no issues with compression artifacts or digital tampering.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix supports this dialogue-driven film with excellent clarity and range. Dialogue is clean and without distortion, whether delivered from the center channel or directionally. Ambient and a few action effects make good use of the surrounds, and the score and an extended dance number are brassy and resonate throughout the sound field. An English 2.0 Dolby Digital mix is also included, as are English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" comes with the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and codes to redeem iTunes and UltraViolet digital copies. The discs are packed in a standard Blu-ray case, which is wrapped in a slipcover. Extras include a Commentary with Writer/Director/Producer Malcolm D. Lee and Holiday Special: The Making of The Best Man Holiday (12:14/HD). You also get a Gag Reel (4:53/HD), an Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary from Lee (1:39/HD), some Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary from Lee (25:12/HD), and Smack Talk: Filming the Girl Fight Scene (4:09/HD).
It took nearly fifteen years for Writer/Director/Producer Malcolm D. Lee to film a sequel to his 1999 film The Best Man. The principal cast reunites at Christmas in The Best Man Holiday, which should please fans of the original with its abundant character drama and comedy. A bit over the top at times, The Best Man Holiday is buoyed by a charismatic cast that plays well together on screen. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.