Comedy gets emotional in ‘Best Man Holiday’

Old friends put on a show for the ladies with a lip-synched version of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain” in “The Best Man Holiday.” Pictured, from left, are Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau and Terrence Howard. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Michael Gibson)

Old friends put on a show for the ladies with a lip-synched version of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain” in “The Best Man Holiday.” Pictured, from left, are Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau and Terrence Howard. (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Michael Gibson)

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

I went into “The Best Man Holiday” with the handicap of not having seen 1999’s “The Best Man.”

For the first few minutes, I tried to make sure I knew all the characters and their relationships, but I needn’t have bothered.

Writer and director Malcolm D. Lee has a deft hand at dealing with numerous characters and giving them each their time to shine, so for the bulk of the movie, I was free to sit back and enjoy.

There are laughs from start to finish, so we could call “The Best Man Holiday” a comedy, but that doesn’t fully take into account the emotionally heavy moments in the second half of the movie. Tears were shed around me in the theater, and a few laughed through those tears.

Harper (Taye Diggs) is going to be a daddy, but he’s been let go from his teaching job, and his agent doesn’t think his latest novel is publishable.

His agent suggests a biography of Lance (Morris Chestnut), a professional football player and old friend, but that friendship suffered a rift that involved Lance’s wife, Mia (Monica Calhoun). I’m pretty sure the trouble got its start in “The Best Man.”

Mia decides she wants to get all of the old friends together for the Christmas holidays at their mansion.

That gives Harper the opportunity he needs, even if he’s not sure about the project or how it will be received. The other friends have their issues, too.

Just before Julian (Harold Perrineau) arrives for the gathering, he finds out his wife (Regina Hall) is an Internet star, and not in a good way.

Jordan (Nia Long) is afraid of commitment, but she brings her new boyfriend (Eddie Cibrian) to the party, where the pair encounter their share of chocolate and vanilla jokes.

And just for a little raunchy fun, Quentin (Terrence Howard) and Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) compete to see who can say the most inappropriate things. I’m hard-pressed to declare a winner, but I laughed a lot.

“The Best Man Holiday” veers into melodrama at times and there are moments here and there that pulled me out of the narrative, but the story and cast always brought me back.

I wouldn’t say I left the theater in a holiday mood, but my two hours were well spent.

I give “The Best Man Holiday” a B plus.

It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, and Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.

Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.