The Best Man

dir-scr Malcolm D Lee
with Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Monica Calhoun, Melissa DeSousa, Victoria Dillard, Regina Hall, Jim Moody, Jarrod Bunch
Universal 99/US 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
With a surprisingly good script and a very able cast, The Best Man is far better than it has any right to be. This is one of those romantic comedies that's pretty painfully predictable from the start, using an obvious gimmick to bring out laughter and tears in everyday situations. And while Malcolm Lee (brother of Spike) is an efficient--if not terribly gifted--director, he does show a nicely understated awareness of how people tick.

Harper (Diggs) is a first-time novelist heading home to New York to be best man for his college friend Lance (Chestnut), a pro football player. Harper's girlfriend (Lathan) is a bit apprehensive about this weekend, as Harper's novel is about his college days, outlining people and relationships ... and spilling a few secrets, including Harper's secret love for a close friend (Long) and a brief affair that will have serious repercussions on the wedding day. And as it all comes out, we have marriage plans, a bachelor party, and so on, to get through.

Both the screenplay and the actors take these essentially stereotypical characters and bring them nicely to life with interesting little touches that make them all likeable. Diggs anchors the film superbly, and Perrineau is especially good as the hen-pecked Murch. This is an enjoyable, entertaining film that makes its point about love and commitment gently (well, until the obvious moralising of the slushy finale) and effortlessly holds the comedy and drama in balance from start to finish. And it's nice to see an African-American film that isn't obsessed with making some sort of political statement--it just tells a good story.

[15--adult themes and situations, language] 18.May.00
US release 22.Oct.99; UK release 30.Jun.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall