The Best Man Holiday reunites the characters that top-lined The Best Man, a 1999 faith-tinged rom-com with Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, and Taye Diggs as childhood friends prepping for alpha-dog football star Lance’s (Chestnut) nuptials. Not ringing a bell? No worries, as the filmmakers utilize the opening credits to replay key moments from the original film to remind you of how much you’ve presumably missed these characters. It comes off as more than a little desperate, and what follows does nothing to alleviate that feeling.
Lance is now looking toward retirement, while Harper (Diggs) is getting the boot from his professorship and a flat pan from his publishers in response to his latest manuscript. On top of this, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Harper’s wife, is eight months pregnant, giving Harper reason to keep her in the dark about his troubles. The possibility of penning Lance’s lucrative memoir offers financial and professional salvation, but Harper’s burgeoning dependency on his celebrity friend has more to do with his need for church. Indeed, writer-director Malcolm D. Lee sets up Lance as the Catholic ideal, with moments of prayer, reminders of God’s grace, and images of crosses inundating Chestnut’s scenes. And as if anyone were in danger of missing the message Lee beats the audience about the head with, he shamelessly milks one character’s terminal illness to reiterate the comforts of and struggles with Christ’s love ad nauseam.
Lee even zaps a goofy rendition of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain?” of its fun by treating the cheesy lyrics with a certain measure of sincerity. The scant laughs come courtesy of Howard’s hedonistic Quentin and Perrineau’s Julian, who’s dealing with a scandalous online video featuring his wife, Candace (Regina Hall). As with the first film, the men indulge an off-putting jealousy in regard to women’s sexual histories that Lee plainly justifies as naturally masculine, and women on the whole here hardly matter outside of the men they’re connected to. Even man-eater Shelby (Melissa De Soussa) is defined by her relationships with Julian, her ex, and Quentin, her booty call; Nia Long’s Jordan, a powerful businesswoman, is only noticeable for stirring up jealousy over Harper and waiting for her new boyfriend to forgive her. The sexism isn’t quite as noxious as one might find in, say, the Tyler Perry canon, but that’s really as far as the compliments go when it comes to this overextended and deeply crude sermon.