The Best Man Holiday should have been an extremely fun comedy judging by trailers and advertising, following four friends reuniting after years of separate successes – but that’s not the movie we get. Oh no, far from it. Malcolm D. Lee’s direct sequel to The Best Man is emotional pornography that pulls every sucker punch in the book, highlighted by a screenplay that forces every single tear-jearking cliché into one sad, misguided film.
Don’t think I’m just a hater of romantic lore either, because I just saw About Time and Richard Curtis knows how to choke a dude up, but Lee’s attempts to bust open our emotional dams are faulty, forceful, and downright pitiful at times. It’s like a trashy episode of Jerry Springer made love to a Hallmark special feature and popped this bastard love-child out during Christmas – providing a watch that neither spreads good cheer nor makes any season bright.
Picking up years after the events of The Best Man, Lance (Morris Chestnut) and Mia (Monica Calhoun) invite their friends over for a festive weekend of Christmas celebrations. Harper (Taye Diggs), now expecting a child with his wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) are the first to arrive, but it’s quickly obvious that Lance still harbors disdain towards Harper. Julian (Harold Perrineau) and Candace (Regina Hall) then arrive at the house and provide a much needed buffer, followed by single friends Quentin (Terrence Howard) and Shelby (Melissa De Sousa). Last but not least is Jordan (Nia Long), who brings her new boyfriend only to have him leave a day later for a vacation of his own. Reunited again, the party starts out jovially, but after some time passes and the friends have a chance to reconnect, drama beings to mount as secrets boil over. Can these friends put their bickering aside and discover some hidden Christmas spirit, or will they all be left out in the cold this year?
I’m not going to sit here and trash this “Tyler Perry Presents” wannabe through every single paragraph, because I truly enjoyed having this cast together – especially Terrence Howard. There’s a solid dynamic between most wives and husbands, and everyone gels like old chums once again, but Howard’s comedic relief was both funny and enlightening. Everyone loves the pot-smoking, foul-mouthed best friend who always cracks moments of wisdom – right?
That’s where my positive reinforcement ends though, because Malcolm D. Lee makes the unforgivable mistake of equating knee-jerk tears to actual, raw, heartwarming emotions. Honestly, anyone can make romantic drama, just like anyone can make a horror movie – but making a GOOD horror or romance film requires so much more. Generating sadness is equatable to generating scares. Just like how you can get someone screaming by easy jump-scares and gore tactics, you can start a flow of tears by using keywords and triggers that just aren’t fair play. Tragedies, holidays, sad children, torn friendships – The Best Man Holiday desperately begs for our sympathy like a three legged, pouty-eyed puppy who lost his leg in a war fighting for your gosh darn freedoms (we salute you, Private Poochy). The problem is, Lee’s script telegraphs such acts without any emotional connection to his audience, shoving soap opera material down our throats until we’re bursting at the seams, feeling disgusted and taken advantage of. How are we supposed to sympathize with characters who seem to be specifically searching for drama?
Making matters worse, The Best Man Holiday runs at an exhausting two hours, proving why your Grandma’s programs only last for hour long episodes on TV. Sure, this leaves plenty of time for every single character to air their dirty laundry and resort to episodic outbursts that rival “The Real Housewives” of whatever sad city Bravo disgraces next, but it’s also scored with the cheesiest, most laughable musical accompaniment possible. Do we really need the sad-sack music while characters are deep in conversation, or the ominous booming during fights?
The Best Man Holiday attempts to mix holiday cheer and an emotionally jarring narrative like that song “The Christmas Shoes” does, using the typically jovial holiday to display touching moments of generosity and redemption – but fails to create genuine drama. While it’s almost damn near impossible not to moisten up during the last verse of “The Christmas Shoes,” Malcolm D. Lee’s long-winded mood-killer couldn’t strike a single chord – especially during the Christmas season. If you want a snow-covered love story, stick to films like Love Actually who rely heavily on characters and soulful exchanges to warm up our hearts, not movies that try to depress us into submission.
The Best Man Holiday could have been a more entertaining dramedy about friendship and redemption if Malcolm D. Lee's script didn't attempt to pull every tear-jerking normality in the book.