In 1999, director Malcolm D. Lee gave us "The Best Man." At the time, the film was a moderate hit- earning almost $35 million on a $9 million budget. The movie earned decent reviews, but didn't exactly set the world on fire. Now, 14 years later, Lee and his cast return for "The Best Man Holiday," a sequel I'm not sure anyone expected (or was hoping for).
Like the original film, "Holiday" is a tale of friendship, its ups, its downs, and how the bonds we make can affect our lives as time goes on. It reunites a vibrant cast of talented actors including Taye Digs, Terrence Howard, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Sanaa Lathan, and the criminally undervalued Harold Perrineau. There's a definite message to the film, which Lee employs no subtlety in communicating, which is that you have to stick with your friends because, often, they're all you have.
Unfortunately, aside from the message, the film does little to justify its existence. It's a movie that feels more like a collection of scenes, as opposed to a story with a cohesive narrative. Lee basically shuffles his large cast into different settings and groupings, lets them achieve whatever goal he's set for that particular scene, then moves onto the next setup. The flow between some scenes is so nonexistent that Lee resorts to dramatic fades to black between them, since there's no proper segue to what's coming next.
Truly, it just felt like the director had storyboarded a bunch of sequences and threw them in a blender. Here's the girls being feisty together. Here's the "boys will be boys." Time for the "awkward" dinner. Insert "cat fight." Sprinkle in "white guys are funny because they're square" jokes. It's been a while since I've seen a film that felt so sterile and focus-grouped. Speaking of focus groups, it's clear that Lee wants to hedge his bets and go straight for the Church crowd because he hits the God button over and over again. This isn't a bad button to press, mind you, but- like everything else in this movie- it just feels forced. Also, before I move on, it takes less than 4 minutes before the first "black guy doing a stilted 'white guy' voice" joke comes up, and it's sandwiched by two President Obama references. Lee seems to be playing to a very particular audience, but I'm not sure even they will be enjoy this film.
Much of the humor is rehashed, "been there done that" stuff. The story is very basic, however it takes a few preposterous turns towards the end. Some of the timing of events, and the way they play out, towards the film's conclusion are so far-fetched that they're almost downright insulting. It's so simplistic and unbelievable that it would almost be acceptable if this were a family film geared towards children, where the "moral of the story" is almost more important than the story itself. However, there's so much profanity and sexually-suggestive content in this film that it's definitely not meant for family viewing. It's heavy-handed storytelling at its worst.
The one bright part of the film is Terrence Howard. He and his character, Quentin, seem to be having a great time throughout. He provides the only genuine spark in the whole movie, inspiring the biggest laughs, and the film only comes to life when he opens his mouth. He and Perrineau do a commendable job being the comedic duo of the four male leads, while Diggs and Chestnut spend most of the movie scowling and crying in their charmless roles as the dramatic half. The female leads all do well with the caricatures they were given to play, but there's really not much to say about them since they don't have much to work with.
"The Best Man Holiday" is a treacly mess with its constant pounding of "friends, love, and God" without a narrative that just lets those themes breath on their own. It knows its audience, apparently, and doesn't seem to care about reaching further.