Review: 'The Best Man Holiday' Is Overlong & Overstuffed But Features A Whacked Out Terrence Howard Performance

Reviews
by Drew Taylor
November 13, 2013 1:46 PM
20 Comments
  • |

2013 is a year that has largely been defined by unnecessary, after-the-fact sequels that virtually no one asked for and even fewer have shown up to (sorry, "Riddick," we know your heart was in the right place). Maybe the most baffling of these sequels, however, is "The Best Man Holiday," a sequel to 1999's "The Best Man," a movie that people barely remember, let alone cried out for a follow-up from. Still, like some kind of viral outbreak or a coyote in your back yard, "The Best Man Holiday" is here, whether you want it or not, and you just have to deal with it. 

The original "Best Man" was an enjoyable comedic drama that focused on a group of college friends who are reuniting for the wedding of a superstar football player friend of theirs. It was overly complicated and way too long, but it had its own kind of frothy charm and a killer soundtrack full of late-'90s party jams. In many ways, it functioned as a kind of African American answer to "The Big Chill," except with extensive, college-era flashbacks featuring Morris Chestnut in a do-rag.

The titular best man of the first film, Harper (Taye Diggs), was a young novelist whose first book was about to be published. In typical comedic fashion, the novel was based on the group of friends and their college lives, including lothario Quentin (Terrence Howard), nebbish Julian (Harold Perrineau) and, of course, the groom himself, Lance (Chestnut). There's a lot of dude talk about sex, some sexual fumbling, revealing secrets and a near-murder, and the actresses assembled to play on the other half of this insane football game (including Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Melissa De Sousa, Monica Calhoun and Regina Hall) were totally up for the melodramatic, occasionally madcap proceedings. It was great for what it was, and looking back on the film, you can see the way that it inspired Tyler Perry's cottage industry of black-targeted entertainment.

In "The Best Man Holiday," which has the dubious distinction of being an unnecessary sequel and a Christmas movie, all of the characters reunite for a holiday weekend at Lance and his beloved bride Mia's expansive New England home. Harper has fallen on hard times; he's been fired from his professor job at NYU and his last few novels haven't exactly been blockbusters. But his silver lining could be his former best friend Lance, who is about to retire from football after breaking some kind of record, but has yet to name his official biographer… Could he mend the friendship and make a lucrative business deal? The other characters have similar problems, including one who finds video evidence online of his former-stripper wife blowing a college kid and another who feels emotionally adrift after years engaging in the swinging bachelor lifestyle.

For a while, "The Best Man Holiday" is just as much laid back fun as the first film. The actors all have an undeniable chemistry, and it's good to see them back together again (Howard, in particular, seems to have beamed his whacked-out performance in from an orbiting galaxy). At times, the sequel seems to have improved on the original, by giving just as much screen time, if not more, to the female characters and it's lovely to see their interpersonal connections form and bend. In particular, the relationship between Harper's wife Robin (Lathan) and Jordan (Long), his romantically tenuous BFF, feels genuine and ripe with dramatic and comedic possibilities. There's also the antagonism between Julian's ex Shelby (De Sousa) and his new wife Robin (Lathan), a casual cattiness that eventually erupts into one of the very best cat fights in recent cinematic memory. This is a ferocious, nails-and-hair-tugging fight, weaves be damned.

About midway through "The Best Man Holiday," though, it runs into trouble: instead of riffing on "The Big Chill" like the first film, it instead takes its inspiration from "Steel Magnolias." The perfectly calibrated ratio between comedy and drama gets thrown out of order, with every character crying (dramatically) at least twice, sharing long-winded dialogue about the nature of god and faith, and even more hurt feelings than the first film (amazingly). It's all a bit overblown, especially when every painful revelation is accompanied by Stanley Clarke's insanely low rent score that fluctuates between jazzy '70s porn riffs and the active chirpiness of an overactive videogame.

While the movie might become more eye-rolling by the minute, particularly when a character advocates that his wife's ill health is now in "god's hands," a statement that, in 2013, doesn't just seem stupid but downright negligent, it still maintains a modicum of grounded reality. Besides whatever is going on with Terrence Howard, the movie still seems to take place on planet Earth, with characters we can clearly identify as human. Plus, as occasionally soap opera-y as it can get, it's never, ever boring (although this is somewhat tested by its grueling 122-minute run time). This movie literally has it all, including someone smashing an iPhone, another person smashing an iPad, cancer, miscarriage, sex-for-cash, Terrence Howard in a Santa suit, a funeral, a birth, dudes referring to blowjobs as "headmasters" and a choreographed, fully costumed dance number set to New Edition's 1988 single "Can You Stand the Rain," a moment that, while clearly rehearsed, is introduced into the narrative without any explanation or follow-through.

In some ways returning writer/director Malcolm Lee (Spike's cousin) is responding to the Perry industry, which sprung up in between the original movie and now. There's a greater emphasis on incredibly stodgy religion, something that Perry often leans on, and the kind of oversized theatrics that causes audiences to flock to any movie Perry's name is attached to. But "The Best Man Holiday" is edgier and more authentic, with more relatable characters and dialogue that earns its R-rating. (Lee stages the action better, as well, since Perry's films are often a compositionally incoherent blur.) The emotions might be similarly heightened, but you can actually understand what is happening and why. It might be overlong, overstuffed, and occasionally operatic, but that doesn't mean that it can wring the tears out of you. Also, there's a scene where Terrence Howard takes a photo of his penis and sends it to someone. [C+]    

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

20 Comments

  • Elle | April 10, 2014 8:52 AMReply

    This was a terrible review and it was way too long.

  • This Blows.. | December 15, 2013 12:33 AMReply

    I would rather have watched Boys In Da Mutha F'kin Hood" this movie was a typical black person film. The needed to add EBT cards, unemployment, and fatherless kids to make it better!

  • Elle | April 10, 2014 8:42 AM

    Wow, a KKK member speaks.....sit your ignorant self down somewhere. Black people aren't going anywhere. DEAL WITH IT!

  • Kimberly | November 19, 2013 5:57 PMReply

    This is by far the worst review of any movie I have ever heard. And by that I mean this reviewer is terrible. Mr. Taylor, did you actually proof read this review before submitting it? Because you have several errors. Also, your review was so negative. And I wouldn't compare this film to ANY of Tyler Perry's movies AT ALL. I do not feel this was melodramatic at all. I felt the movie was very real and sincere. I will definitely be purchasing it when it's released on DVD. And your statement to the character's reference to "putting it in God's hands" was appalling. Did you not hear the wife say that they had tried every single specialist, medicines and even holistic approaches??? They felt that all they had left was their faith. How can you possibly scoff at that?? there is so much more that I can say to you. But it looks like you will be hearing much more from others.

  • The Movie Lady | November 19, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    How about no one was waiting for "The Hunger Games" sequel? This movie has excited so many and though it did not take number one at the box office it has been very well received. I don't know who you were trying to discourage from seeing it but it reached its target audience.

  • Kellie | November 18, 2013 1:48 PMReply

    " Maybe the most baffling of these sequels, however, is "The Best Man Holiday," a sequel to 1999's "The Best Man," a movie that people barely remember, let alone cried out for a follow-up from."

    I knew that your review would be poorly written after the above sentence from your first paragraph. This couldn't be more inaccurate as the sequel has been highly anticipated in our community since the original film came out. This misinformation on top of your other factual errors shows you need to do better research before reviewing films, particularly if you have no cultural context for them. Thank you.

  • Ima Harer | December 15, 2013 12:28 AM

    This was the stupidest movie ever made!!!

  • John 11:25-26 | November 16, 2013 7:03 AMReply

    It's sad when reviewers don't take the time to fully understand what they are watching. These characters have been watched by audiences over and over for the last 14 years. To say that no one was waiting for a sequel ignores that fact. This was not some forgotten movie. Lance, Harper, Quentin, Murch, Mia, Jordan, Robin, Shelby, and Candace are family to us. There was not a dry eye in the theater during the later parts of the film. Not to understand the importance of these characters to the targeted audience is not only a dis-service to your readers, but to your employer. Now as another post suggests, if this was a review a movie based on "Friends" I would have to agree that no one would be waiting for that unfunny nonsense. But this is about Faith, Family and Football.

    PS. Sequel spoiler alert: Q will be getting married in the next movie

  • Ty | November 15, 2013 4:54 PMReply

    As a black woman,I refuse to go see this movie since Taye Diggs is in it.

  • Elle | April 10, 2014 8:49 AM

    Another ignorant statement. What has he done to you personally to make you refuse to watch his movies? Oh let me guess, he married someone non-black? Please grow up.

  • scripttease | November 16, 2013 2:55 PM

    Give Taye a little credit. Not sure what issues he has with Black Women, but he was on Katie this past week, and I kind of admire the man.

    Taye has an organization dedicated to and for "urban" young women called A BroaderWay Foundation. You should check it out, he ain't all bad.

  • Melanie | November 15, 2013 12:09 AMReply

    As an educated AA woman, I loved and related to the first film. For many years my friends and I have awaited a positive representation of our life. When AA are being ignorant and acting foolish, its called entertainment, but a great film is being picked apart by someone who clearly does not understand the culture behind the film. If i said the same thing about the show Friends, I would be ridiculed. I didnt think that show was funny at all, but you never heard many AA ridicule that show. Think before you write an article like this, its rare that we see movies that we can relate to. Your facts and opinions are way off, and the Box Office number will prove you wrong.

  • Belinda | November 14, 2013 4:50 PMReply

    One of the things I look forward to when reading a review is objectivity. I found none whatsoever here. You provide too much information about the movie and then you go on to bash it in a way that suggests nobody should watch it. Not only that, to suggest that a belief that the life of someone is in God's hand is stupid, reflects your insensitivity to those who believe in God. How is that comment even relevant to a movie review? Please show some objectivity if you want credibility. I'm not even from the USA but I can guess that you are white. We are thankful for the reviews that you take time out to write but please show a little respect.

  • Tobi | November 14, 2013 4:40 AMReply

    I liked the review, I thought it was hilarious and you gave an overall recap without (much) shtick at the end to formulate your overall opinion. The overall reaction to spoilers that most people have is ridiculous, and to say that this movie spoils it enough for you to watch it kind of questions if you wanted to watch it in the first place. Also, who cares if this is a 'white person' reviewing a 'black movie'? How the hell is that relevant; it's a critic reviewing a movie, what they're paid to do. Review any movie in any way you see fit, since everyone brings their own sensibilities, background and character to anything to do.

    And I have to agree, who really wanted, or needed, a sequel to this? It's cool they made it, good on them, but this was in such a high demand like all the fairy tales stories that are in the works right now?

  • Belinda | November 14, 2013 4:53 PM

    I for one was looking forward to this sequel. And I know a lot of people who were too. Please do not speak out of ignorance.

  • Yvette | November 13, 2013 10:24 PMReply

    No offense, but you sound like a film-geek white guy reviewing a 'black people movie' -
    and ... There are people in real life for whom faith is a driving force.
    You might want to venture out from behind your Mac screen from time to time.

  • Tobi | November 14, 2013 4:41 AM

    Only 'film-geek white guys' use Macs and can venture from them?

  • the urban film | November 13, 2013 8:56 PMReply

    Let me first say I respect your BIAS review of this film. Aside from your spoilers "Terrence Howard takes a picture of his penis". You had many errors regarding the relationship between certain characters "There's also the antagonism between Julian's ex Shelby (De Sousa) and his new wife Robin (Lathan)," CORRECTION Julians new wife aka ex stripper is Candace played by Regina Hall.

    Then you stated a film that did not ask for a sequel, actually if you did your homework the film has been highly anticipated and for the past 10 years there had been talks about a sequel and people looking forward to the sequel.

    Then you bashed a "religious" view of the character saying "leave it in Gods hands" (we know the character Lance is a man of faith) and real people like that exist and can relate, as some "unrealistic" faith and as if that was so ridiculous to add in the film in terms of the dialogue.

    Your review was filled with a couple of erroneous information (which I pointed out) and you gave too many spoilers for me that I couldn't enjoy it. (just my opinion) it just sounds like you were ready to give this film a negative review before watching it. and I hate to say it, but since this film is filled with positive African-American characters who are educated and have themselves together you just seemed you were not open to this film being a really good film (and the film has received great reviews so far) a B- or higher.

    I take it that if this film was about stereo-typical blacks living in the hood and gunned down, or being saved by the "white" hero or enslaved blacks you would have given it an A++

    But I could be wrong.

  • KG | November 16, 2013 12:00 PM

    I can assure you that Terrence Howard taking a dick pic is not a spoiler, but I sort of love that you think it is.

  • Ms. Jenkins | November 15, 2013 4:35 PM

    Thank you The Urban Film! Many people have heard of this movie. Its a very well received and loved movie. We all have been waiting for the sequel. Wow...this article has me at a loss for words.

Email Updates