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Mr. Brown Verses The Best Man Holiday

Let me say this right now: I love seeing movies with predominately African-American casts. There aren't enough movies out there which center on the black community and our struggles. I wish more studios took a chance on making more films based around black families because it can make bank at the box office (See: Lee Daniels' The Butler).

Having said that, The Best Man Holiday is one of the year's worst movies, and of all the films that will end up on my list (which is coming next month), this one is probably the hardest for me to put on there. I honestly wanted to like this movie, but this sequel to the 1999 hit, The Best Man had everything that drives me insane about comedy-dramas: poor screenwriting, characters making implausible and dumb decisions because the plot demands it, cliché after tired, predictable cliché, and the religious themes that contain all the subtly of a brick to the face. It's not the anti-comedy that is the contemptible and vile Movie 43; nor is it The Hangover: Part III, where I wound up with a bad taste in the mouth about how bitter the whole affair was. But Best Man Holiday isn't any less infuriating to watch, especially when the movie is actually very funny, but I'll get to that later.

These girls may have had a ball, but I was puling my hair out.
All the actors return to reprise their roles from the first one. Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) is down on his luck: He's in the red, his last published novel failed, and his wife, Robin (Sanaa Latin), is nine months pregnant and about to deliver their first child. His publisher suggests he write a biography on retiring Giants running back Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut), who is going to retire at the end of the season. Harper and Lance aren't exactly on good terms, given the fact he had an affair with his then-fiancee Mia (Monica Calhourn) in the first movie, but he and his wife are invited to spend Christmas with them at Mia's request. Then there's Julian Murch (Harold Perrineau), who runs a charter school, along with his wife, Candace (Regina Hall), who acts as it's VP. The donations to the school are being cut due his wife's past as a stripper, and a videotape of her in her past profession, including giving oral sex to a customer for a bachelor party for extra cash. Next, there's Jordan Armstrong (Nia Long), a top executive for MSNBC and in a relationship with Brian (Eddie Cibrian); Quentin (Terrence Howard), the resident horndog; and lastly, Shelba (Mellisa De Soussa); who's defining characteristic is being an intolerable, unlikable bitch.

Already, there's about eight characters, all vying for screen time and for the audience to get involved with their respective maladies. But because this movie is just over two hours long, we have to cram everything - the drama, the wacky setups, the inevitable, tearful reconciliations - within that short amount of time. The pacing suffers as a result, as the film drags on and on. The character's dilemmas aren't even all that interesting to begin with, and as I said before, most of the messes they create could have been avoided if they didn't act like idiots! And the religious themes are so heavy-handed (Lance praying to God on many an occasion, Mia putting her faith in a higher power to see her through her illness she's hidden from her friends), that you can't help roll your eyes, or feel insulted that the screenwriter, Malcolm D. Lee (who also directed), treats the audience as if they're stupid. The whole thing feels like I'm watching a Tyler Perry production, from the soap-opera performances from the actors, to the overly-melodramatic nature of the script.

However, the near-saving grace of The Best Man Holiday is Terrence Howard.

Thank you, Mr. Howard. This movie wouldn't have been much fun without your input.
Every time he shows up on screen or interacts with the characters, there's always a funny one-liner, or a nice setup to a funny situation. He's the Barney Stinson equivalent in this movie, whether it's talking about getting laid, or snapping pictures of his cock, Howard's Quentin easily becomes the most identifiable and the most likable character, mostly because many of us know that one person who is still the fun, slightly obnoxious, free-wheelin', wise-crackin' friend you hung around when you were in your 20's. His comedic performance also adds a much needed break from all the melodramatic moments which lightens the mood on what is already a sluggish affair with the characters, but every time he exists, the movie goes back to feeling tedious and a chore to sit through. When the filmmakers take the predictable route in a story like this and go down every avenue in order to set up the big event that will bring everyone back together, coupled with actors and actresses who are given little room to with a bland, vanilla script that hits every button as predictably as you'd expect (a major character dying, the big Christmas Day football game that holds special significance as Lance tries to break the all-time rushing yards record, the delivery of a baby, etc), and it's not much fun watching all the events unfold. That's what makes The Best Man Holiday such a letdown: we've seen this all before, and it's not even done effectively enough to make us care.

** stars out of ****


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