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Review: 'The Best Man Holiday' Offers A Thoughtful Reunion, But Is Emotionally Taxing

The 1999 surprise hit, The Best Man, became everything audiences wanted in a film. It launched several of its cast members into the stratosphere, and jumpstarted a flood of equally classic African American rom-coms. But how does the sequel fare almost 15 years later?

Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee has some explaining to do. He knew that audiences couldn't wait to see another installment of his popular Best Man film, and eagerly anticipated that day with baited breath. Sadly, too much time has passed since then and audiences were left wondering whatever happened to that crew of college friends we've grown to love and admire.

When word bubbled that Lee was putting the gang back together, it signaled a revival of sorts, a return to the roots of what made audiences appreciate films like Love & Basketball, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Love Jones. Thankfully, it wasn't all a ruse, and we were treated to a cast dinner, which found Lee's ensemble not only still looking good ("Black don't crack."), but involved cinematically within a year full of great works starring, profiling, and directed by black Hollywood talent. The Best Man Holiday caps off a film schedule full of interesting films such as 42, Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels' The Butler, and 12 Years a Slave. So, this sequel was a welcomed change from the regular "shoot-em-up," drama-filled epics we've come to loathe over time.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, The Best Man Holiday picks up after the events in the original where Harper's (Taye Diggs) first book caused all sorts of drama on the eve of his best friend's wedding. Fast forward a decade plus, and now the characters have all become their own success stories. Lance (Morris Chestnut) and Mia (Monica Calhoun), the couple who almost never were, have seemingly surpassed the original friction and created a wonderful life with a successful marriage, NFL career, and well-behaved children. Jordan (Nia Long), has moved on from her lusting of Harper, and found love in the arms of her new boyfriend named Brian (Eddie Cibrian), who is, well, melanin-deprived. Julian (Harold Perrineau) and Candace (Regina Hall), who met at Lance's bachelor party in the first film, are now happily married with kids. The loudmouths of the group, Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) and Quentin (Terrence Howard) have increased their magnitude for mania by continuing to create trouble for their friends during the Christmas Eve holidays. Lastly, Harper's wife, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), is finally expecting their first child after years of going to the fertility bank.

All these characters and their successes mask an extra layer, which gets peeled back through Malcolm D. Lee's script. With nearly 15 years having elapsed since the original film, many of the highlights given to the audience as a reminder of what used to be, plays out cluttered and muted. The hijinks that led to creating a whimsical charm in the first movie, return in the sequel, such as the scene where the fly male cast performs an amusing rendition of New Edition's "Can You Stand The Rain". Those happy moments and reminiscent times do little to shadow the light mayhem that stems within the group. Eventually, the picture shies away from the Yuletide spirit to fully immerse itself in melodrama mode, finding everyone in the cast with a little bit of dirt on their shoulders.

But in The Best Man Holiday, it's not the cast who should be the one to blame for seeming to be less fully actualized than before. Lee's script glaringly takes shortcuts, such as in a scene where Julian finds a disturbing video of his wife on YouTube. As a social activist, his character shouldn't really be afraid to confront his significant other about the events he sees, but Lee chooses to go for scandal, which ends up going horribly (and unnecessarily) awry. The instant Lee dives into the sentimentality, he goes way too deep: from the Stepford-esque kids ("too cute and schmaltzy") to the easy-to-telegraph "a-ha" moment that is the big plot reveal — the end result is a lot of groan-induced moans within the theater.

There are moments that even baffle the audience, as we're expected to believe these successful, intelligent, and good-hearted characters have grown from the tensions of the first film, and yet they still descend into an episode of Basketball Wives right in the thick of the film.

For what it's worth, The Best Man Holiday will not be de-constructed by audiences who are looking to nitpick such as this critic is. The comical repartee between the cast hasn't waned over the years, and they all offer some very likable performances despite the ominous plot that looms within the film. The fault of the picture comes from the jam-packed story, which written by Lee, suffers from too many predictable plot points, too many emotionally manipulative moments, and too few clever cinematic moments. Despite the heavy-handed usage of sexuality with religiosity, the ensemble cast — namely Taye Diggs and Monica Calhoun — stand above it all to provide an unbalanced result for fans and audiences.

Almost fifteen years ago, The Best Man exemplified the growing trend within Hollywood that had taken root within moviegoers' consciousness. Now, The Best Man Holiday showcases that regal fineness, that charisma in a film that finds Lee with so much to say about God, faith, fame, and family. The result can be thoughtful and heartwarming, but also quite frustrating and disappointing.

It might not be the holiday gift worth giving this Christmas season.

Don't believe us?! Take a look at the trailer below:

Universal's The Best Man Holiday is rated R with a run time of 122 minutes. It is currently in theaters now.

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Actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail following his release, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Chicago, IL.
AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Jussie Smollett Released On $100K Bail

Jussie Smollett was reportedly released from Chicago police custody on Thursday (Feb. 21), after posting $100,000 bail, CNN confirms.

Police and prosecutors held a press conference, in which they listed a series of evidence that would corroborate their claim that Smollett staged the homophobic and racist attack that occurred against him in Jan. 2019.

The prosecutors confirmed a chronology of the events leading up to and after the attack. They cited phone and credit card records from both Smollett and the Osundairo brothers who were reportedly paid $3,500 to act out the incident.

As previously reported, the Empire actor was arrested and taken into custody in Chicago earlier this morning on one count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. The police claimed the actor staged the attack because he was upset about his low salary.

"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said. "Why would anyone especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? ... How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?"

If convicted of the charge, Smollett could serve one to three years in prison.

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'Boomerang' Episode 3 Recap: Stand In Your Power

As the aptly-named episode of BET’s Boomerang kicks off, Bryson is in a deep sleep when his sexual fantasy of Simone riding him like an Amtrak is abruptly cut short after she pulls out a strap-on (um, y’all are grown). Let’s just say, she’s not a football player but she rams. Despite his obvious initial thought, this isn’t a conflict of sexual identity. It’s that feeling of loss of power whenever he’s around the two most important women in his life: Simone and his mother Jacqueline who (FUN FACT) was played by the Queen, Robin Givens in the series’ 1992 film inspiration. First of her name. Mother of no BS. Protector of her pockets. Goddess of You Got the Wrong One. We stan.

While diving deeper into his familial issues, we realize that Jacqueline wasn’t just a ball-buster to Marcus back in the day. A therapy breakthrough reveals that mommy dearest isn’t too affectionate to young Bryson either.  Although she did pull her strings to land Bryson a solid role at the Graham agency, she didn’t make family a priority and that kind of thing sticks with you, ya know? Don’t feel too bad for Bryson just yet because at this point, he will no longer be a “yes, man,” no matter how bomb Simone always looks in her bob.

Just as Bryson decides to boss up, he unexpectedly runs into Simone back at the office who is helping herself to some supplies for her "home office." In a sudden “I can make moves, too” moment, Bryson shares with Simone that her idea (that he’s been persistently pitching)  has finally been greenlit and naturally, sis is annoyed. Marketing an avant-garde black film, such as the project in the episode, “Woke,” has always been a passion of hers.

Within two seconds into listening to his “plan of strategy” to market the movie, it’s obvious that Bryson can’t possibly be Big Bad Bry for too long without asking for Simone’s help. And Simone knows that. At this point, he’s still strong enough to not ask Simone for it but the Hustle Hungry protege takes it upon herself to force it anyway. It’s simple to her. Bryson needs black talent to promote the film and Simone has just the client- Tia. Granted, homegirl can’t sing a note to save her life, but Simone has some tricks and this is way too big of an opportunity to pass up.

Once again at the board meeting, a clearly annoyed Victoria is still over Bryson for previously messing up by being a sucker for love, but she hasn’t lost faith just yet. He still has a shot to prove himself. At an afternoon meeting at their swanky loft, the twin directors of “Woke” try to explain the direction they want for their movie. Although poor Bryson is lost (mainly because their responses barely answer his questions) he hasn’t reached a place of uncertainty to where he feels as if he has to agree with all of Simone’s suggestions. He’s holding it down as Boss Man Bry and he proves that when he reaches the studio. Simone has Tia record two different versions of the track, confident that Bryson would like hers better.

After listening to both, unbeknownst of who is responsible for which, Bryson chooses Tia’s track. He almost even backtracks when he finds out that wasn’t Simone’s vision, but he decides to man up instead and stand his ground, instead.  Yes, he said what he said. Operation Stand in Your Power is in full effect. Simone’s grip on Bryson’s heart slowly slipping. Maybe now she’ll retire from the Rams. *wink, wink*

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Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, And More To Appear On LeBron James' 'The Shop'

HBO Sports' The Shop starring LeBron James and Maverick Carter is coming back this Mar. 2019. Season two of the series will feature appearances from Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, and more.

James will also be joined by Jamie Foxx, Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis and stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael.

Ahead of the air date, LeBron shared a clip of his chat with 2 Chainz on Instagram. "Can’t wait for y’all to hear the continues evolution of his profound skills from his mind to the booth to the records itself. Proud of you homie and the people will be as well when this hits," he wrote in the caption on Instagram.

The show initially premiered in Aug. 2018. It created quite the buzz on social media due to its unfiltered conversations surrounding race, politics and sports. The show's episode with Drake went viral after the OVO artist commented on his beef with Kanye West and Pusha-T.

The 2019 season premiere is filmed in Charlotte, NC, home of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend. The first episode of The Shop will air on HBO on Friday, Mar. 1, at 10:30pm ET.

 

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Had to pleasure of working on my first music project from start to finish with my guy @2chainz “Rap or Go To The League” coming to y’all 3/1. Can’t wait for y’all to hear the continues evolution of his profound skills from his mind to the booth to the records itself. Proud of you homie and the people will be as well when this hits! 🙏🏾✊🏾💪🏾 #ARBron #RaporGoToTheLeague🤷🏾‍♂️

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on Feb 19, 2019 at 9:13am PST

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