Fifteen years ago the Best Man was released to tepid reviews in the general movie-watching community but became an instant classic among the Black community. The story was about a group of college friends (all Black) who gather together for a wedding where long-held secrets are revealed and old tensions bubble to the surface.
It was a decent movie and a cultural touchstone in the Black community but few were screaming for a sequel. Fifteen years later director Malcolm D. Lee brings us one anyway with the Best Man Holiday. This time the eclectic group of friends comes together once more for Christmas. The regular cycles of life have pulled the young professionals in different directions over the years and the Christmas gathering at NFL star Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) New York mansion is the first time in years the friends have all been together. Fights, revelations and major life transitions ensue as in the last film.
I went to see BMH this past weekend and three things struck me about the film. First, its always refreshing to see a story in which the main characters are not only black, but successful professionals. They’re not “ghetto”, there are no drug dealers and no “fat, black mammies” for comic relief. The second thing I noticed is that there were way more white people in the theater for this movie than I’d ever seen at a “black” movie in the past. The third thing and what stood out to me the most is how faith is treated in this Hollywood offering.
In this story, our main character Harper (Taye Diggs) is struggling to produce a sophomore hit after his best-seller novel based on his group of friends. Harper and his wife (Sanaa Lathan) are preparing for a new baby, he’s lost his teaching position at NYU and money is tight. We see Harper struggling to reach out to God for help but he is skeptical about faith. He tries prayer again and again but always gives up.
In contrast, Harper’s best frenemy is Lance – a pro-football player about to break the NFL rushing record. Lance has become a man of faith over the years after marrying his college sweetheart. In interviews he openly talks about his faith in God and prays on the field. God, family, football is Lance’s creed.
Around the dinner table the friends always pray and thank God before their meals. They go to church together and make frequent references not just to a generic “God” but also to Christ. Its not just treated as a routine tradition. The characters in this movie value their faith and take it seriously. They encourage the skeptical Harper to seek God to help him through this tough time in his life. Even with all that there is still plenty of raunch, romps and bad decisions to make things interesting – just like in real life.
As I left the theater I turned to my friend and said “I guess the only place you can see Christians who aren’t crazy in Hollywood is in a black movie!” We had a giggle about that, but its true.
We do stories all the time here at IJReview on Hollywood shows and movies that openly insult Christians and their faith. “Crazy Christians” my friend and I call them. “Oh look, here comes another crazy Christian!” we laugh every time we watch a movie that includes someone of faith.
If you want to see people praying, praising God and thanking JESUS then your only choice is Black entertainment. Non-black (read:white) movies hate faith. But in the black community, for all our struggles faith is still an integral part of our life.
Faith isn’t ridiculed in this movie. In fact, it is celebrated. There are no “counter” arguments offered in the dialogue, no obnoxious friends preaching about tolerance and relativity and paths to God. It just…is. Marriage is celebrated as the ideal and treated with a revrance not normally seen in Hollywood.
Of course, outside of the refreshingly positive view of faith this movie is just a good story with universal appeal. The cast has that same chemistry that made the first movie a hit. If you haven’t seen the original Best Man you can still enjoy BMH as they recap some of the major plot points but I do suggest it. The evolution of these characters is as interesting as the plot. There is some “community specific” good-natured ribbing but nothing that sent any white person fleeing the theater as far as I could tell. Overall, this is a warm story about friendship, faith and growing up.
I find it interesting that the last safe place to be a Christian in America these days is in the Black community. Perhaps the trials of our race immunize us from the typical progressive judgmental attitudes toward faith. Perhaps that “white guilt” that is sickeningly pervasive in the progressive community also works to protect us from their disapproval of faith. Whatever the reason may be, you’ll never see a black person in Hollywood being disparaged for their faith. It just doesn’t happen. So if you long to see more movies that reflect your values and faith with respect and reverence, the best place to find them is in the form of black film.
We have a lot of issues – fatherlessness, crime, promiscuity – but we also have our faith. We take it seriously and so far Hollywood believes us.
*Go see this movie.