Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Best Man Holiday

Not for the first time, it strikes me that we at eFilmCritic could really use someone regularly writing reviews who likes romantic comedies or relationship-oriented ensemble pictures the way I like sci-fi. I certainly enjoy them well enough, but it's not exactly the sort of thing that I both love enough to be genuinely thrilled at finding a good one or ticked off enough when they don't meet my expectations to really get into why. The folks posting there are a pretty straight white male group, and when something like this falls to the Monday after its opening so that I can see it in theaters, it can really show.

Then again, I may not be doing too bad - skimming through the reviews on IMDB, I seem to be the only white male who didn't make a point of thinking the movie was too preachy or religious, and folks who know me would probably be surprised by that point of view. Admittedly, one of my favorite scenes was one where a character's faith seems to be giving him a sort of cruel false hope, and while I may be a little cynical about how things play out after that, it is relatively honest and fair-minded.

I enjoyed the audience, too - not quite the most crazily invested I've ever seen (honestly, it's tough to beat the Rajini fans at Endhiran), but active. It's a bit of a cliché that black folks talk back to the screen more and are generally louder, making for an easy connection to how white folks are quiet and attentive in church while their African-American counterparts aren't, but there can be something to it. Of course, sitting up front as I am wont, I couldn't swear to the demographics of the folks making noise behind me. The thing is, I enjoyed it. I went pretty much straight from this to a screening of Thor 2 at the SuperLux, and there's no question which audience was more into the movie rather than being apt to talk with each other or open the light-shedding menu so they could get up to order some more of the plated food that requires more attention than regular cinema snacks do. I digress, but it really is a great connection between audience and film that you don't necessarily see every day.

The Best Man Holiday

* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 November 2013 at AMC Boston Common #4 (first-run, DCP)

"The Best Man Holiday" is an awkward title that hints that the movie's reasons for existing are purely commercial, or at least that a marketing department felt it would be risky otherwise. Not having seen The Best Man, it could well be an obvious act of recycling and stretching to include characters that don't fit this story, but if so, then the original must have been pretty darn good, as Holiday feels like a welcome reunion even if this one's first time meeting these characters.

In the nearly fifteen years since the first movie, the best man in question, Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) has written some books and joined the faculty at NYU, although both his writing and academic careers are hitting bumps at an inopportune time, as wife Robin (Sanaa Lathan) is in the final weeks of a difficult pregnancy. His agent suggests a biography of his best friend from college, retiring New York Giants running back Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut), and when Lance's wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) invites them to spend Christmas with their family, it's tempting. Also invited are Mia's bother Quentin (Terrence Howard), her best friend Jordan (Nia Long) and her boyfriend Brian (Eddie Cibrian), Lance's friend Julian (Harold Perrineau) and his wife Candace (Regina Hall), and Julian's ex-girlfriend Shelby (Melissa De Sousa).

Harper isn't the only one having money troubles; the charter school Julian and Candace operate has lost a major donor. Jordan's issues are more romantic; Brian is perfectly nice, even if her friends have a few laughs over just how white he is, but she's so focused! These stories are thin enough that characters actually call each other out on not just going about things directly, although writer/director Malcolm D. Lee and his cast are mostly able to make it feel like legitimate matters of pride, confusion, and embarrassment (and, occasionally, just looking for trouble) on the characters' parts rather than the clumsy way comedies often put obstacles in their characters' paths.

Full review at EFC.

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