2013 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Almost fifteen years after providing a box office hit with The Best Man, Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall and the rest of their group of upwardly mobile African-Americans are back. In the intervening years, there have been marriages, births and divorces...and now they're all getting back for the Christmas holidays. Long-forgotten romances - and rivalries - are re-ignited as the wine flows. Speech!

Director

  • Malcolm D Lee

Cast

  • Morris Chestnut

  • Monica Calhoun

  • Melissa De Sousa

  • Taye Diggs

  • Regina Hall

  • Terrence Howard

  • Nia Long

Review

Back in 1999,writer-director Malcolm D Lee hit box office gold with The Best Man, a cliche-free depiction of aspirational, middle class black Americans whose inspiration was less Shaft and more graft.

When we left them Morris Chestnut's New York Giants running back Lance had just married Mia (Calhoun) despite her admitting an affair with Lance's best bud Harper (Diggs).

Fast-forward a decade and a half and there's still bad blood between Lance and Harper and the latter's career as a writer is on the wane and he's been fired from his university teaching job.

However, he hits on the the sneaky idea of accepting an invite to a Christmas house party from Lance and Mia at their tacky mansion so that he can gather material for a warts'n'all unauthorised biography of the unsuspecting Giants star.

Despite Lee's occasional tendency to soggy melodrama, his original film was a wry, entertaining take on a demographic previously overlooked -the black middle class - and spawned a whole flurry of similarly-themed fare, from the trite romance of Baggage Claim to the sharp, mating-game-turns-to-war comedy Think Like A Man.

This rom-com-dram take on The Big Chill isn't quite up there with Lee's debut but it never succumbs to the grim sudsiness waded through in Tyler Perry territory.

Where it does succeed is in the quality of the acting, particularly Terrence Howard's slightly ridiculous player Quentin, a nicely-played comedy distraction when the romantic drama is getting a tad too mawkish.

Larger-than-life performances in a movie that deals in broad brush strokes also include Melissa De Sousa's Shelby, a upholstered bombshell and successful businesswoman who bitchily resents the former stripper who snared "her man".

But it's the fractured bromance between Chestnut and Diggs, a richly-worked love-hate relationship that provides the movie's real emotional ballast, an authentic test for a God-fearing alpha male to forgive his oldest friend.

Tim Evans