Movie review: 14 years after 'The Best Man,' Malcolm D. Lee rounds up the gang for a holiday sequel

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Imagine a wrecking ball -- preferably without Miley Cyrus -- swinging back and forth, hither and yon.

That is how the tones and moods shift in "The Best Man Holiday," a sequel to the hit 1999 comedy about college friends reuniting for a wedding; the ceremony was jeopardized by an autobiographical novel with some damaging details about the best man and bride-to-be. After much drama, professional football player Lance (Morris Chestnut) wed Mia (Monica Calhoun), and there were proposals, breakups and hookups as well in "The Best Man."

Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee stages another 0reunion in his follow-up, with Mia inviting the old gang to the couple's mansion for the Christmas holidays; yes, football has been very good to Lance, who is on the verge of breaking the NFL's rushing record in his final season. He and Mia have four children while Lance's frenemy Harper (Taye Diggs) and his wife, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), are expecting a child after much heartache.

'The Best Man Holiday'

Starring: Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Monica Calhoun, Sanaa Lathan and Terrence Howard.

Rating: R for language, sexual content and brief nudity.

Murch (Harold Perrineau) and his mate, Candace (Regina Hall), have two girls and run a charter school while self-absorbed Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) is part of a successful housewives TV franchise and has a daughter of her own. Self-sufficient Jordan (Nia Long) is director of programming for MSNBC, and Quentin (Terrence Howard) is a wealthy, well-connected smooth operator who is drawn to and repelled by Shelby.

Old rivalries and grudges resurface and more than one friend is keeping a secret.

Harper hasn't told his wife or pals that he lost his university teaching gig due to budget cuts, and he's not upfront with Lance about his desire to write the athlete's biography and get back on the best-seller list. Murch discovers a disturbing detail about his wife's checkered past, and Mia has an ulterior motive, too, which may be apparent to astute moviegoers.

As before, "The Best Man Holiday" boasts a fine-looking cast with some of the actors -- such as Mr. Howard and Mr. Diggs -- bigger draws than ever. But watching the movie is like going on a trip with a driver who keeps stopping or taking small detours as the GPS voice robotically announces, "Recalculating ... recalculating."

One minute the guys are in matching outfits dancing to New Edition's "Can You Stand the Rain" and making the ladies swoon and hoot during an impromptu talent show. A little later, two women are swapping R-rated insults and coming to blows -- while children are within earshot and view. Characters cry and drop to their knees in prayer, too.

Absolutely nothing wrong with turning to God in times of need, and real life is rarely all comedy or drama, but this story tries to be all things to all holiday moviegoers, or at least the ones old enough to watch R-rated movies and with a deserved fondness for the original.

Ms. Calhoun nicely underplays what could be a scenery-chewing role, and the men, especially, are stoic, funny, tender or on tenterhooks, depending on their characters.

A twist near the end involving an arrival is jaw-droppingly absurd although designed to roll all the tension, joy and humor into one bouncing bundle. And the stage just might be set for another reunion -- cast, audience and box office willing.

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632.

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