“Someone referred to the first ‘Best Man’ as a romantic comedy. I like to refer to this one as a dramatic comedy.” - Taye Diggs, with cast members on The Talk
I couldn’t have said it better.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since “The Best Man” brought old college buds together for a wedding back in 1999. Conflict, lust, slow-motion Morris Chestnut, and secrets collided to create a classic.
In “The Best Man Holiday,” we catch up with the friends for a holiday weekend at the posh pad of retiring football player Lance Sullivan (Chestnut). The group is older now, with racks of accomplishments among them. We’re reminded of the familiar characteristics we remember from the first go-round. Q is still a player. Murch still can’t keep a secret. Jordan is still super ambitious. Harper is once again trying to figure out what to do about a book. Mia is still the sensible, soft-spoken diplomat that complements Lance’s fiery personality.
And, oh yeah -- everybody’s still fine.
Okay, enough of the particulars. Let’s jump right into how this movie is so well done...and might just have you all in your feelings. ***SPOILERS AHEAD***
First round of applause goes to writer and director Malcolm D. Lee. The writing in this film is pretty much on point from beginning to end. The dialogue? So natural, you could drop a mic in the middle of just about any group of black professional cronies and record similar conversations.
Next round of applause goes to the "Can You Stand the Rain" performance that I grinned all the way through while singing all the words. Perfect choice. That song is iconic (and turns out to be apropos in the context of the story).
Somewhere in the heart of all this laugh-out-loud goodness, the film takes a left. A sharp, jaw-dropping left. Yes, there was some foreshadowing that Mia (Monica Calhoun) wasn’t completely happy, but I suspected maybe all was not well in the Sullivan marriage. You know, maybe Lance had been running amuck during his away games.
Then we see the blood on the towel. Okay “Best Man,” what's going on? Surely we are not doing this...we were having such a great time! We were enjoying Morris’ abs! How are we going to keep the comedic high going once the big “C” shows up?
But the film goes there and goes hard. Totally unexpected. And those moments after the football game -- the dashing out of the stadium, the police escort, the not waiting for the car to reach a full stop to jump out...if you’ve ever been in the unfortunate situation of trying to make it to someone’s bedside before it’s all over, your heart pounded extra hard during this scene, just like mine.
When you see films like "Precious," "For Colored Girls," or "12 Years a Slave," you go in braced. You've got your mind ready for an emotional roll in the hay of sadness, despair, and the need for brown liquor. Nobody expected that from “The Best Man Holiday.”
Thank God for Quentin (Terrence Howard). If it wasn't for Q and his Santa costume and his weed and his raunchy quips and antics, we would've left the theater in more of a teary daze than we already had to stumble through.
Yet, in the midst of all this crying -- indeed at a funeral -- we are presented with a special treat. A reprise from the first “Best Man”-- Stevie Wonder's "As." (Harper and Jordan were dancing to it during that late-night study session.) This version, however, performed by Anthony Hamilton and Marcia Ambrosious, is slow and emotional...and haunting.
In “The Best Man Holiday,” Malcolm D. Lee somehow managed to blend extreme comedy with extreme drama, without cheating either one. And in another 14 years, I’m sure this movie will still be at the forefront of our memories. Only difference is, for me, “The Best Man Holiday” might fall into the category with other good movies I’ve added to my collection, but can’t bare to watch on a regular basis (e.g., “The Notebook”).
At least we still have “The Best Man” for that.