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From left, Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau and Terrence Howard in a scene from The Best Man Holiday.

Michael Gibson/AP

2 out of 4 stars

Written by
Malcolm D. Lee
Directed by
Malcolm D. Lee
Starring
Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Melissa De Sousa, Terrence Howard
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

God, Family, Football is the title of the biography that one character in The Best Man Holiday is writing about another, but it's a pretty nifty alt-title for a movie that does to your emotions exactly what one player does to another on the big Christmas game day: slams them to the ground and stomps them silly.

A sequel to the 1999 movie The Best Man, The Best Man Holiday gathers the same super pretty ensemble cast – then graduating from college, now mostly made millionaires – in order to see if the seasonal spirit of peace on Earth can trump the rest of the year's petty resentments. Like the game itself, it proves a tough and tight match.

Set mostly in the impossibly huge New Jersey crib of star football player Lance (Morris Chestnut) – the house is so big it doesn't even seem to have any neighbouring domiciles or even a street for them to be on – The Best Man Holiday begins the week before Christmas as the invites to the Sullivan family's big holiday sleepover summon our peeps into the 21st century. There's Harper (Taye Diggs), the formerly bestselling author who's secretly planning a book about Lance as a way to reinstall himself on the bestseller list; Jordan (Nia Long), who's made a major business splash in Manhattan; Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), now a fearsomely intimidating, cleavage-wielding "Real Wife of Westchester"; Quentin (Terrence Howard), still stoned after all these years; and the eternally loving Mia (Monica Calhoun), married to Lance and now facing a personal tragedy that will prove instrumental in getting all these superannuated fortyish teenagers to finally grow up and hoist the mistletoe.

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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. It sprints gamely through the endless corridors of the Sullivan manse, as inspirationally as Lance himself does on that Christmas Day playing field, and the forgiveness it preaches extends to the forgiveness it asks. Why would we care about the petty personal tribulations of all these beautiful people cavorting through a house that God Himself might get lost in? Because it's Christmas, dummy.

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