The Best Man Holiday Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee. Rated R. Opens Friday.
It’s rare for something other than a big-name franchise to get a sequel 14 years after the previous installment, but 1999’s The Best Man is sort of a slow-burn hit. Although it was a fairly modest success initially, it has grown into something of a touchstone for African-American cinema, so 14 years later seems like just the right time to finally bring out the sequel. A number of cast members have seen their careers take off, so it’s impressive that writer-director Malcolm D. Lee has managed to reunite all nine principal players from his original film.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only impressive thing about The Best Man Holiday, which finds the group of friends who came together for a wedding in the original movie now getting together over Christmas. While The Best Man featured natural, relaxed chemistry among its characters and an emotionally honest (if slightly contrived) storyline, Holiday relies on crass humor, heavy-handed sentiment and overwrought melodrama, with nearly every actor overplaying his or her part. Multiple subplots drag the movie past the two-hour mark, and with a climax that features a funeral, a birth and a football world record, Holiday ends up as bloated and self-important as the original was modest and charming.