Best Man, The (1999)

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 09/18/02 10:43:19

"There's nothing 'best' about these men."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

The Best Man is a fairly limp ‘talking heads’ film about an author who uses a past indiscretion to load his debut novel, only to have the thing read by all his friends just before one of them is to be married. And therein lies the rub – if you boffed your best bud’s girl in college, would you let him in on your dirty little secret by publishing it in book format just before they’re to be married? Not if you have a brain in your head, yet that’s the dilemma in The Best Man, written and directed by Spike Lee’s cousin, Malcolm Lee. Whether Cousin Malcy got his start as a result of nepotism or talent, the lack of any empathy an audience can have with these characters rests at his feet.

Harper (Taye Diggs) is our lead, but he seems to have a lot of trouble telling the truth, unless it’s in writing, in which case he can’t stop telling the truth. His girl, Robin (Sanaa Lathan) has about as much appeal as colonic irrigation – even if she could maybe give you some pleasure, it’d be the kind of pleasure that leaves you walking tender for a day or two.

And then there’s Harper’s pals, a mix of snarky asshole (Terrence Dashon Howard), wimpy she-male (Harold Perrineau Jr) and brooding, bragging man-ape (Morris Chestnut). Which leaves us with only one person left to truly enthuse in – driven TV executive Jordan (Nia Long) – a woman who would gladly commit adultery just to get a little of what she missed out on at college.

Is the point here that everyone in society is despicable? If it is, then The Best Man achieves. But if the point here is that these people all have something special about them, it’s well lost in a sea of whiter than white black men, simple-minded and/or bitchy black women, and about as much appeal amongst black audiences as an anthology of Amos and Andy episodes. These people are so successful despite themselves that you could almost have called them the Bush family, yet they’re so preppy and ‘yupped out’ that even Bryant Gumble himself would be hard-pressed to relate. These people are about as realistic as the cast of Friends - in space.

So as long as we’re not going to actually empathize with anyone in the cast, the very least we can get out of this is a little nudity, right? Well, nearly. Apart from one scene with Nia Long walking about in a purple teddy, the only other flesh on offer comes in the guise of a bachelor party stripper scene, which for some reason stops very short of any actual stripping. In fact, The Best Man has all the sexual intrigue of a Snoop Dogg music video, featuring copious amounts of shaking booty and gyrating of hips, but not a lot of anything you couldn’t see in a Bowflex infomercial.

When it comes right down to it, The Best Man isn’t exciting, it isn’t poignant, and the lessons learned in the end aren’t particularly worth learning. It’s a lot of beautiful people getting angry at other beautiful people, then deciding they want to have sex with them, then backslapping their way through a happy ending. In a word, bollocks.

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