3 1/2 Stars
Malcolm D. Lee delivers an excellent follow-up to his debut film nearly 15 ears after the original became a surprise hit and paved the way for the likes of Tyler Perry. Returning cast members all turn in solid performances and the camaraderie onscreen creates an infectious joy in the audience. Like the original this sequel runs for about 20 minutes longer than necessary and threatens to get overwhelmed by a heavy-handed plot twist late in the film. However, writer/director Lee deftly navigates the course and delivers an unabashedly romantic and funny new-age holiday classic.
The opening title montage serves as a quick reminder of where we left these characters a decade and a half ago and their current state in life. After his blockbuster novel, Harper (Taye Diggs) has been unable to achieve that level of success with any of his subsequent offerings. Leading to an offer to write an unauthorized biography of his friend Lance (Morris Chestnut), who is 176 yards away from breaking a NFL rushing record. Harper’s wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) is eight months pregnant and suffering from raging hormones, while his college flame Jordan (Nia Long) is deep in a relationship with a Brian (Eddie Cibrian), a white co-worker. The most engaging of the populist cast is once again Terrence Howard, who plays the free spirit Quentin. It is a juicy role and Howard savors the dramatic bits and delivers in moments of lite comedy. The trickiest role is handed to Morris Chestnut who’s Lance is still holding a grudge for something that should long have been healed.
Adding to the mix of comedy and drama is the revelation of a grim fate for one of the main characters. It is forecast a bit too early and threatens to overwhelm the feel-good movie, but it rebounds nicely and much like the original a faith-based film, the last half hour gets a bit preachy. These characters are loud, selfish and often comical, they’re a fiercely loyal group, and you wouldn’t mind seeing them again. I hope Lee can devise a way to bring them back to the screen in another intelligent, and funny movie–lets just not wait another decade and a half.
Director: Malcom D. Lee
Stars: Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terrence Howard