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Article by Teddy Durgin

Commit to the Best Man Sequel

"The Best Man Holiday" is being billed and promoted as a comedy. And it IS very funny in spots. I laughed quite a bit. But, wow, does it turn into a rather ruthless tearjerker in its final half-hour! How ruthless? Eight college friends reunite after 15 years for one big shared Christmas. One has terminal cancer, another is close to financial ruin and still another is dealing with a difficult pregnancy after enduring years of infertility concerns and suffering a previous miscarriage. And if that weren't enough, an adorable, angelic child bears witness to her mother getting into a knock-down, drag-out fight with another woman. Punches are thrown, profanities are spewed. And when it's all over, the little girl is left sobbing in the middle of the room and she utters the line - and I kid you not - "Mommy, it doesn't feel like Christmas anymore!" I could be wrong. It was hard to hear over all of the "Awwwww's" of the audience. But I think the little tyke might have even pronounced it "Twismas." Oh yeah. Director Malcolm D. Lee goes THERE. He has one mission in this flick... to drain your tear ducts. And I will say, the man does commit to his mission! And in addition to all those things his characters have to deal with, one is on the verge of breaking the all-time NFL rushing record, another character must scramble to secure a $2 million donation for his education foundation, and another is - yikes - dating a white dude! Remarkably, though, Lee makes this mix of laughs and cries work. You'd have to be a stone-cold gargoyle not to be moved by some of this stuff. And you'd have to be a complete, arms-folded, eyes-squinting curmudgeon not to acknowledge that there are some genuinely big laughs throughout. The film is a sequel to the 1999 sleeper hit "The Best Man." It's an intriguing follow-up, as the characters have aged in real time. In the years since we last saw them, they've all tasted success in some way. But they all have their issues. Some of those issues are unresolved ones from the first movie, like Morris Chestnut's NFL star Lance still smarting over his best friend, Harper (Taye Diggs), having once slept with his bride (Monica Calhoun). Harper, meanwhile, has failed to produce another best-selling book since his debut novel that was loosely based on all of his friends' misdeeds and misadventures. If you recall that original flick, you're going to genuinely enjoy catching up with these mostly good-natured characters. If you've never seen the first movie or barely remember it, there is an opening montage of scenes from the '99 film that set up the character dynamics in this one. You won't be too lost for too long. The nice thing about this flick is that all of the characters are interesting to follow. There isn't a boring one in the bunch. My favorite is Terrence Howard's free-spirited Quentin, who still enjoys smoking his weed and playing the field. Every flick like this needs a Quentin who can come into the most over-heated scene and cool it off with a great quip or a hilarious line. Howard is wonderfully loose in the part. My favorite bit comes late in the film when he offers to loan a friend in seriously dire financial straits some sorely needed money, but on one condition... that the grown man just once has to call him "Daddy." Funny stuff! But, wow, does "The Best Man Holiday" go for broke in its final act! Nearly every major character gets his/her own "Why God, why?!" scream-cry scene. Hymns are sung and deathbed promises are made. If nothing else, this "Best Man" DOES commit!


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