When college friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited.
Year 2, Film #37
THE REVIEW: This movie was simply just not made for me; for many reasons. I seem to talk about my expectations for films a lot recently, and the trend is going to continue for The Best Man Holiday. But I think this argument is most relevant for this movie in particular for two main reasons: marketing and sequels. First, the marketing for this film makes it seem like its something which it isn’t. It’s like the trailers that make Mrs. Doubtfire a horror film and The Shining a romantic comedy. It’s one thing to push a certain aspect of a film over another, it’s quite another to hide a main part of the film entirely. Second, is the sequel problem where you must balance how much of the film is tailored for the fans of the original and how much you have to present to first time viewers. My personal expectations may never be all that important for you dear reader, but in the case of The Best Man Holiday, the issues these are based on are.
One of the most shocking things about this film was how radically, and abruptly, the film changed halfway through. In the trailer I saw and according to the film’s IMDb page, this film was made out to be a comedy. There was nothing serious-looking about this film at all. Which, now thinking about it in retrospect, seems odd since there isn’t even a conflict that’s presented; it’s just a reunion of these “friends” that we all know (well, supposedly we do, more on that in a bit). And so I was going in expecting to be in the midst of an audience roaring with laughter, not surrounded by people sniffling and wiping tears from their eyes. The biggest problem with this isn’t the dramatic turn the film takes — the latter half definitely evokes emotions from everyone, however subtle they may be — it’s with how sudden it is. Almost out of nowhere we learn that one of the main characters has cancer. It instantly kills the joking mood that’s been established — with Quentin Spivey (Terence Howard) and Julian Murch (Harold Perrineau) providing the biggest laughs — and really tugs at your feelings, a bit too much. The reveal was too shocking and caught me off guard. The result? Eventually I came around to feeling the sadness and grief felt by the characters, but at first, I almost continued laughing because it must obviously be a joke, right? That’s how the rest of the film has been so far, why should they do a 180 and switch the tone of the film in the second half? Except the character is coughing up blood, and looks very gaunt, and is shaking. Oh wait, this is real; the character does have cancer. It’s just doesn’t make sense why they would start with the cancer as a main focus of the film. Despite the shock that comes with this reveal and some over-the-top reactions, it’s handled very well and makes for a more impactful and emotional film than it was as a comedy.
As for how this film is handled from a sequel point-of-view, the answer is: very poorly. Put aside the fact that I wasn’t even aware there was an original movie before this – The Best Man — and let’s focus on what the movie accomplishes, or more accurately, fails to accomplish. If you didn’t know about the original, the opening title sequence of The Best Man Holiday will enlighten you on what you missed with basically a “Last time on…” recap video you see before TV shows. That was strike one. Strike two was the fact that in case you didn’t see the original, and you forgot about this recap they presented, the film kept shoving it down your throat that these characters did things almost fifteen years ago. It’s one thing to re-establish a pre-existing world, it’s quite another to make you feel guilty if you dared to come into this film knowing nothing about it. After a while, it becomes clear what happened in the first film and the impact that had on the characters and their relationships. That lets The Best Man Holiday come into its own and tell its own story but by the time this happens, it is too late. It’s more about a continuation of the first film than having a separate, but connected, story. And that is strike three. Sequels can, and in many ways are expected to, connect with the films that come before them. Fans like to see expansions on material they’re familiar with but at the same time get an independent story. Look at any sequel (and there are many to choose from nowadays) and chances are you can watch just that one film and get a standalone experience. Thor: The Dark World is a great recent example. Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen any of the previous Marvel films, you can go into the Thor sequel and understand everything that’s going and get a story that’s self-contained; not one that relies on the previous film.
The Best Man Holiday had some good things in it. A few parts were funny (again, Terence Howard really knocks it out of the park here) and the dramatic parts towards the end did have me feeling for the characters. But, the negative elements overwhelmingly dominate the experience. If I had to choose one word to describe the film it would be confusing. Not because it was hard to follow along, but because the film itself was confused with what it wants to accomplish. The tone, style, and plot all meander along and abruptly change throughout the course of the film. Definitely not worth your time to see this film in theaters, and probably not on home video either.
The Best Man Holiday opens in theaters this Friday, November 15, 2013.
THE RATING: 2 out of 5