ABOVE: Watch the trailer for The Best Man Holiday.
TORONTO — The Best Man Holiday reunites the characters of 1999’s The Best Man so audiences can see what happened 15 years after the wedding of Mia (Monica Calhoun) and Lance (Morris Chestnut).
Malcolm D. Lee directs the sequel, which also stars Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard and Harold Perrineau. Though set in New York City over the holidays, the movie was shot last summer in Toronto (watch for the Summerhill LCBO and The 519 Church Street Community Centre).
Are there enough movie-goers who want to catch up with this group of friends? Or will The Best Man Holiday be a lonely one? Here’s what some of the critics are saying:
“It’s shamelessly manipulative. It’s about 15 minutes too long, having, by my count, three separate endings,” wrote Soren Andersen in the Seattle Times. “And yet despite all that, The Best Man Holiday is disarmingly heartwarming.”
Andersen called the movie a “crowd pleaser.”
Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News agreed more of the film should have hit the editing room floor.
“The film does feel overlong and the tone is occasionally wobbly,” she wrote.
Still, Weitzman commended Lee for keeping the pace “generally steady” and “mixing comedy and melodrama in even amounts.”
Stephen Farber of The Hollywood Reporter called the movie’s running time “excessive” and complained of “too many endings.”
He also suggested “reactions to the heavy religiosity in the last section will be mixed, with some audience members appreciating this element and others tuning out.”
The movie got a mixed review from Claudia Puig of USA Today.
“Humor is weighed down by contrivances and sentimentality, though the cast is generally appealing. “Some funny lines (including a risqué interpretation of the term “stimulus package”) and comical repartee are interspersed among the maudlin moments … Sentimental schmaltz competes with slapstick silliness for an uneven result.”
The word “maudlin” also appeared in a review by Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post.
“There’s no denying that the maudlin, message-y machinery of The Best Man Holiday often threatens to collapse of its own self-conscious weight,” she wrote. “This is a one-two-three-four hankie movie that misses no opportunity to wring a few tears, no matter how shameless.”
Hornaday praised the work of the cast.
“As with the first film, it’s the actors who bring warmth, humanity and compulsive watchability to every moment of The Best Man Holiday, no matter how ersatz, overprocessed or manipulative.”
Geoff Pevere wrote in The Globe and Mail that the movie is faithful to the genre.
“Traditionally, Christmas movies are about the power of the holiday spirit to conquer all in the name of seasonal detente, and The Best Man Holiday, although sprinkled with bad behaviour and salty bon mots, is traditional right to the twinkly-tipped top of the tree,” he wrote.
At Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman described The Best Man Holiday as “a better-written Tyler Perry movie.”
He added the movie is “an eggnog that’s sticky-sweet and heavy at the same time.”
Betsey Sharkey at The Los Angeles Times also singled out the performances of the actors.
“They do much to keep the film from completely unraveling, a constant threat,” she wrote.
“There is so much the writer-director wants to say about God, faith, fame, family and affluent African American life. The result is a joyous, raucous, righteous film but also a frustrating and disappointing one. Not quite the gift of the season some had hoped for.”
Bill Wine of Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia warned the sequel is “darker and more downbeat” than the original.
“The crowded plot is appropriate and serviceable, involving infertility and ambition and illness and fame and strained friendship and athletic prowess and abiding resentment and a lot of other strands that you should just relax and take in at face value,” he wrote.